HIGHLAND, TEXAS.

OCTOBER 1995

The tape snaps on in a hurry. It is briefly at an odd angle, and the person holding it is muttering under their breath. When the camera is righted, it is focusing on a small infant. The baby girl wears a green shirt with "Punkling" written on it, and her hair has been gelled into spikes.

"She's stopped? Damn. Just when I got this on."

A punk woman, somewhere between late twenties and early thirties, picks the infant up. (The woman has a shaved head but seems to be trying to regrow her hair, and has tried dying it green; it looks like a lawn with weeds growing in it) "Come on, Daria," she coos. "Speak for Mummy."

The baby looks disgruntled.

"Come on, Daria, come on. What was it? Say aaa-naah-key."

The baby opens its mouth. "No."

The camerawoman bursts out laughing, and within a few seconds the punk does as well. Baby Daria struggles and is put down.

"No," she says, as if she's emphasising.

"Helen, this is the best video I have of a talking baby," says Amy, "and I have one of Erin trying to say 'fuck'."

"Awwww, she's been saying 'no' for two weeks now," says Helen proudly. "She knows what it means, I'm pretty sure she knows. Don't you, Daria? Who's the clever baby? Who's the clever baby?"

Daria is disgruntled again, the expression common to all babies being bothered.

"Defiant already, huh? She's going to go far."


GOD SAVE THE ESTEEM

Episode 42: Combat Rock

"It was a general call to rebellion that falls apart at the slightest scrutiny." - Toby Creswell, 2005

"Punk was just a way to sell trousers." - Malcolm McClaren to Q, August 1989

"We're not your monkeys." - Sex Pistols to Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, February 2006

"What the hell are you talking about?" - Daria Morgendorffer to St Patrick's Day (no really), March 1999


Things were moving fast in Annapolis, ever since the magic words "Feds" and "bioterrorism" were uttered. A war room had been assembled in the Maryland National Guard's headquarters; the Lawndale Incident Committee, the Guard, the State Police and an assortment of Homeland Security crowded round, fighting for seats. Special Agent Loeb dominated the map of Lawndale County, glaring at it like the very location was his enemy.

"You've all been briefed on the stakes. That is why we're going with Operation Last Resort, the Incident Committee's contingency plan. The county police and mayor's office will be temporarily suspended in Lawndale proper; state police and Guard forces will blanket the town, cutting off all routes in and out, and laying siege to Dega Street and other strategic points. Strike teams will make a simultaneous raid on thirty targets, all persons responsible for the last few years of chaos. The county police will be ordered to raid secondary targets in other towns.

"Last Resort was originally intended as part of a state of emergency. We are now beyond one state being at risk and federal resources, including the entire Homeland Security force in Maryland, is being thrown in. Also, the DEA because they've been begging for it.

"And the aim this time is bigger. In one strike, we are going to dismantle every fucking port that Morgendorffer can sail to. We've got Homeland Security, Texas Rangers, and the Texan National Guard preparing to take out Highland; secondary teams in other states to hit other affiliates; and we've requested England's MI5 to take down Sid Vicious, just to make the damn point.

"And then, our teams take her out and retrieve the X5 supervirus.

"Questions? Yes, Mr Bell."

The Business Secretary straitened his tie, and in a tone of great wisdom and gravitas, he said: "Motherfucker, didn't you see Last Resort was dated April First?"

"It's a good plan nonetheless."

"No it's not," said Governor O'Malley. "That's why it had an index of Things Can Will Go Wrong."

"Things That Will Fuck Up," corrected Bell.

"We're throwing enough manpower and firepower at it to neutralise most of those, and this is the security of the republic against bioterrorism. We don't have to worry about the ACLU or the armchair pinkos on this one." There was a glint in Loeb's eye that said that this was a man who should always need to worry about armchair pinkos. "We bring down all these punks at once. We'll give them a fascist regime."

"You did not just say that."

"Shut up! There is too much on the line here for snark! Men are dead! Whole states may be next! And no one here or in Texas could sort out the rot in time, you're lucky I let you have any involvement! I get authority right from the Oval Office, understand?" Loeb wiped some spittle off his chin. "Get ready to mobilise in one hour."

The Guard and Homeland boys seemed glad, but everyone from the State Police and governor's cabinet looked like a turkey that can hear the sleigh bells coming.


'Aunt' Kelly was always a sensible woman, so when Amy and her nieces turned up for their cars again, she said: "Didn't you just leave for DC yesterday?"

"We realised if we wanted to see systemic corruption, Baltimore was cheaper," said Daria in a flash.

"I'm glad to see you're feeling better, Daria."

"I accepted Jesus into my life, and He can always bring his own to parties."

"A dam burst and we can't stop it," said Erin.

"Sorry to love you and leave you, Kelly, but we need to get to Ashfield across state," said Amy. "There's been a thing."

"Not for much longer," said Daria, calm and peaceful as long as you didn't look into her eyes.


"Thank you." Flemming hung up. "The trio are heading for Ashfield. The Ashfield."

It was years ago, before Bork and Hurly had even joined the ATF, but everyone in the firm knew of Ashfield and its art colony. One of the biggest busts of the year, sunk by some bastards from the DEA trying it at the same time, and so many creeps walking free because of an unending argument about whether their whacky-baccy counted as drugs or cigarettes.

Bork remembered the files. "Her friend, a Jane Lane – she was a young artist…"

"Well, now. Isn't that handy."


"If the Ashfield CONcert isn't for another FEW HOURS, then WHY are we leaving—" DeMartino took one look at the Tank. "Oh. I SEE."

"It's not the destination, man, it's the journey," said Jesse Moreno, nodding his head. "But we better get there because that's where the gig is."

In the next van along, Quinn stared in awe at the vast, bulging boxes of security gear – truncheons, coshes, tear gas, masks, tasers, a big Stop sign – that Steve was gingerly putting in.

"Do we really need all that?" asked Quinn, like a good monk asking if you got to have sex once you were in heaven.

"I just like having it around," said Steve. "It makes feel happy."

"Steve, you're the coolest stooge of the man I ever met."

"Yeah, I know."


"See you in four days, Tom, we're off to Ashfield," said Sloane the Senior, before, like all people who'd made a bad joke, going "ha ha, just a joke!"

(Unnoticed by him, Elsie went from happy to glum at the news she was still going to the Cove)

"I thought you were away for most of the month," said Tom.

"After four days, there will be an 'emergency' that forces us to come back. Your mother's working on a really good excuse." Angier put a fatherly hand on Tom's shoulders. "I don't know what you said to be permanently barred from the family's summer get-togethers, but god please tell me."

"Sorry, Dad. You can't rely on me your whole life, you have to learn how to do things on your own."

As the rest of the Sloanes left, Elsie flipped Tom off; Tom struck back by flipping off with two hands; Elsie escalated to sticking her tongue out as well but then their mother caught her, so Tom won by default.


When Daria reached Ashfield, the town was starting to fill up with bikers, punks, metalheads, and some people she wasn't sure about but looked like they hadn't washed in at least a week.

Her phone rang. "Your family have moved to Ashfield?" asked Erin, and then immediately hang up.

"I just got snarked by Erin," Daria told Amy. "This must be what it's like to see your child say its first words: absolute fucking horror that you won't be able to stop them."

"Ah, Erin. It seems like only yesterday she was screaming her head off at 3AM – or I might be thinking of your mother."

"Was the screaming vaguely intelligible? If so–"

"It was Erin," they chorused, and high-fived each other.


With his parents absent and not coming back for a long while, Tom had invited Astrid round. Blonde and statuesque, she stood in his room, leaning forward, her lips parting, and she said "Here you go" and handed him the DVD she'd borrowed two weeks ago and forgot to give back.

"Thanks."

"I'll be honest, Thomas. I had a more… underhanded reason for coming. I say underhanded, but I believe – I am certain – it is something you want too."

"Hm. You're right, I do. But I can't."

"You don't have to tell anyone –"

"It couldn't be kept secret, you know that. You also know it's wrong. And you know why it's wrong." Tom sighed. "And Elsie made it very clear that if she even thinks I looked at her diary, she will set fire to me when I'm asleep. I don't want to call that bluff."


All concept of time had been lost; ever since she knew Daria would be coming, every second stretched out for Jane, forcing her to reflect on what had happened, making her wait an agony of an age for her friend, for respite. She'd turned to painting and that worked, as it always did, but the result was jagged darkness and screaming hate. It was subject matter she painted all the time but always under control, often – dare she admit it – artificially because she found it cool rather than because she'd been angry and depressed in real life. This made it clear how she felt inside.

She covered it, because she couldn't stand any of the Judas's around camp seeing that.

And then it was waiting. And waiting.

And then hope in a green field jacket, walking slowly down the path. Jane ran over to her and was about to open her arms when, suddenly, she felt a bit ill at the thought and stopped.

"I take umbrage with this name, 'Colony of the Arts'," Daria opened. "I don't see a single oppressed indigenous man."

Jane chuckled. "Feeling better, huh?"

"Sucks to how I'm feeling. How are you holding up?"

"I'm not."

"I am willing to make physical contact with a filthy not-me bag of flesh if you want a hug."

"Nah, I'm good."

Daria didn't reply to that, but she'd clearly noted it. "I know I've not been through what you have, and there's nothing I can say that could ever cover it. But I'm going to say things anyway, for the greater good: massaging my ego."

"Fellating your ego, surely."

"Only if the ego behaves itself. Speaking of ego, I saw Daniel Dotson wandering around. He teaches here and you haven't killed him with his own art yet? Oh, Jane. What happened to your hate?"

"Oh, you don't know hate for this guy until you've been in his class. They're seminal and semiotic."

"They sound like something that begins with an s."

"Well, last class of his…"


Daniel had been running low on hot girls that he hadn't already 'tutored' (he'd seen Daria but had forgotten in the very same instant) and that had left him a bit despondent, but there was an extremely stunning young redhead leaning against the side of a car, talking to some woman in her forties – talking to herself. She must be visiting, so he'd have to work fast to pull her.

"Hello, miss," he said, turning the full force of his charm on. "Looking for—"

Erin cut him off: "Ha ha, no, I'm not getting involved with guys like you again."

Charm was so shocked that it led True Inner Nature stomp to the front instead: "Oh, like you're too good for me."

"Yeah," she said.

With quick wit and great cunning, he said: "Fucking dyke."

Yeah. That showed her.

(PS it didn't, she pointed and laughed as he walked off)


Something was clearly going on in Ashfield. Through the ancient ATF tactic of looking at a poster ad and reading it, Flemming and his team learnt that there was going to be a Mystik Spiral gig in town.

"Should we tell Loeb's people?" asked Bork.

"No," said Flemming. "We'll have Ms Morgendorffer in custody before Spiral arrives. We don't need Loeb interfering with the plan."

"What's the plan?"

"Go in, see her, bust her, leave" said Hurly. "It's a great plan."

"As Agent Hurly says. We know the targets, they don't know us. We go in now."


"So why are we arriving in Ashfield before the band does?" Quinn asked Steve.

"We secure the site before they arrive. Means we get paid to sit around doing nothing. And isn't that what it's all about?"


It was a beautiful day and they had no clients, so Helen and Jake decided to sunbathe, and just to get a proper tan they decided to do it nude. After a bit of argument with the neighbours, they agreed to do it in the back yard instead of the front.

"There sure are a lot of helicopters around today," said Helen. "That whup-whup-whup noise is very distracting."

"Don't worry, honey, I brought a boombox out with us!"

The sound of Ramones filled the entire fucking street, and Helen and Jake clinked beer bottles.


Jane showed Daria her painting, and the others she'd been working on during her stay. Dark, harrowing, faces in pain and anger.

"Someday the curators will look back on these and say they're from my "art colonies suck" period."

"Curators? Criminologists." Daria paused. "Do you want to tell me how you're really feeling?"

"You've seen the painting."

"Like shit. Someone you thought you could trust turned out to be a bastard and tried to tell you what you wanted, and it's made you unclear about who you are and what you want. And you feel distraught because you can't stop remembering the moments you thought were good ones, and the ones that should have been, and thinking 'why'.

"I actually did, on some level, want what my grandmother offered me. It's not my place to say whether you—"

"I was curious. I probably would have experimented on my own. But… Alison, she…" Jane's voice got smaller. "I was scared but I thought she must know better than me."

"That always hurts. And you're like me, you always thought: I know what I want. Nobody is going to convince me otherwise. Now, you learn that's not true. You know what else you learnt? The methods these people use, how they get in close, and that you can quickly work it out and make sure they can't do it again. Next time someone tries that? You're ready for them."

"Now, though? Now? I'm the stupid girl who got talked into bed."

"You're the girl who had emotions and opened up to people. And I've always admired that about you. I have never been able to do that, the way you can."

Jane looked down. "You'll make me blush. Keep it up."

"That's pretty much all I had."

"And still you came. Thanks."

"You're my friend."

They stood in silence for a minute, not able to meet the other's eye.

"Do you want this Alison woman dealt with?" asked Daria.

"Eh, define 'dealt with'."

"You define it. I'm feeling generous."


"The state of emergency and martial law is just being announced now," Loeb told the war room. "As soon as the announcement is complete, we strike. Hinz, Rawles, tell your men."

The announcement was ten seconds away when an agent came running in.

"Sir, we're getting reports of a build-up in Ashfield – some of our targets are heading there—"

"You only now tell me—"


Erin and Amy were having a long, philosophical conversation about Dotson and the hypothetical size of his willy, when Amy, without changing her facial expression one iota, said cheerfully: "Don't make it obvious but that guy come towards us is Special Agent Robert Flemming of the ATF. Hilary's Terrier, the guy they send in for the really big shit. I'm going to have to dispose 'in plain sight' of the Oldfield's Moonshine Light-O in the glove box."

"Oh, Aunt Amy. Don't you remember the last time?"

"Nope." She frowned; there was the sound of two cars, coming in far too fast. "Scratch that. I'll just have to hope—" She cut off when she saw the agents responding with confusion to the sound. "Something's wrong."

The cars screeched down the dirt path and Muddy Grimes jumped out before one stopped moving and that's when all hell broke lose across Maryland.


The Morgendorffer's back door exploded off its hinges as a three-strong SWAT team crashed through it, guns up and ready to fire.

"HOMELAND SECURITY! DOWN NOW OR wuuuuhhhhhh—"

All three agents stood, slackjawed, at the sight of dangly naked bits. In those few valuable seconds, Helen smashed her bottle into the leader's jaw; Jake smashed up his upside a head. The third man only had to time to readjust his aim before he was tackled to the ground and curbstomped.

"We knew this day would come," said Helen grimly. "We go with the contingency plan. Text everyone en route." She thought it some more. "Maybe put on some clothes first."

"No damn time, honey! Even just underpants could cost valuable seconds!"


The police were raiding the Hecuba house just five seconds after she'd received the "PIGS COMING" text, but that was warning enough – Andrea hurled herself down the stairs, belly-first, into the enemy.

"NO SURRENDER!"

The scene was repeated in the house of every Maleficent Eleven member, except for Shane, who had been on the toilet and was tasered where he sat. First man down.


Tom had been in the garage when he got the text, but he didn't understand why. Not until a minute later, when he walked out and saw the police breaking into his house.

Very quietly, Tom went back into the garage and into his Bentley, and drove out very fast.

They're really hardline about torrenting, he thought, scared.


The texts had spread throughout Dega Street like sentient herpes, but the roads were already blocked off and helicopters hung overhead like vast, predatory birds. Enemy strike teams were already in and making raids. Axel armed himself with a trusty, rusted chain and came out to meet his foes, screaming out London Calling like a battle-hymn, but the State Police and Homeland Security men were too well armoured and too many.

Suddenly, fruit and bottles began to rain down on them – more and more as the street began to rally. The other strike teams found their way blocked.

"I don't think you've twigged what street you're in!" spat Axel, mouth filled with blood.

The lead pig fired into the air.

It didn't work.

He took aim at the crowd.

Someone threw a very accurate brick and he went down.

The crowd rushed in.


Interception teams had caught up with the Tank – this was not hard – while a frenzied debate was going on. On the one side, Max and Trent and the very meaning behind their music. On the other, DeMartino with normal human logic and common sense:

"Trying to FIGHT the State PoLICE is STUPID!"

Then the State Police outriders blocked off the van and a response team ripped the doors open, and the lead officer said: "Oh shit, it's old Mister DeFartino!"

DeMartino looked at the man and his mind's eye went back ten years to a C-grade student who always talked in class and put gum under the seats.

He grabbed his heavy, blunt guitar as the world went red.


There was noise across the forest but none that he had to care about. They weren't the target. You'd know if you heard the target. So would your partner, because nobody would do this mission without backup.

Or without armour-piercing rounds, because against someone like this you just wanna have fuu-uuun

"BRAVO TEAM TO ALL – CONTACT, CONTACT!"

Shots filled the air.


The National Guard had been expected to be called in as support – they knew Lawndale – but not to secure the house of a teenage girl. When they arrived, one policeman stood outside to greet them, shellshock on his face.

"Target 'Burnout', she…. She fled to her basement."

"I see. What's she armed with?"

"Uh…I have no idea. We can't find her."

That went down as well as a striptease by Freddy Kruegar. "You can't find someone in a basement."

The policeman nodded and led them into the house and down into a weed farm that stretched under the entire street.

"My god…"


Legal staff fled and papers were scattered like lost lives as the windows of Vitale, Riordan etc shattered, armed police and soldiers pouring through them. Offices were kicked into, paralegals waved against walls, Eric Schrecter dragged crying from under a desk.

And the whole raid stopped at the sound of a ball bouncing.

"What." Jim Vitale, walking out of his office, bounced his rubber ball off the wall. "Exactly." Off the other wall. "Do you think you're doing?"

Guard Sergeant Chen did not blink."This firm is a primary target for the pacification of Lawndale County," she said.

"Oh, really. How nice for you." Vitale put his ball in his pocket. "You do realise how many ways there are for me to bury you for this, and all your bosses, and your family, at that? Do you? You realise who you're messing with?"

He would have gone on longer but then a policeman said "RESISTING ARREST!" and whacked him in the stomach with his rifle butt.

"I don't know, but I guess they do," Chen told the fallen lawyer, as every Maryland policeman cheered.


The bin came at police van Zulu-Five without warning, coming close to shattering the windscreen. That miss would be the last error their enemy would make, as four of the State Police's hardest jumped out, weapons ready, to penis boobs vagina penis boobs vagina penis penis PENIS

Thirty seconds later, as their stolen van roared away, one officer fought to hold onto consciousness long enough to call it in.

"Send… asexual officers… stat," he added before going under.


And in Ashfield, Agent Flemming went for his guns, drawing one in each hand, aiming right for the Grimes' heads, but then fell over because Muddy had drawn first and shot him in the neck.

Bork and Hurly looked down as their mentor bled out and died.

"Oh," said Hurly. "I wasn't expecting that."

She grabbed Bork and ran for cover.


Jane looked up. "What was—"

"Gunshots." Daria's voice was small and tight. "Wait here."

She crept to the door; there were armed men running to the huts, firing shots and barking orders for people to get out.

"Jane, you'll need to start running."

"And you run like Lonesome George, after death. Nuh-uh."

"Be logical about this. Someone needs to get out and get help."

The argument ended when the door was kicked in. Daria grabbed the nearest thing at hand and swung it, hard, and being hit with a canvas knocked the thug off-balance for a few seconds.

"I'll follow just run!"

They fled out of the hut, with Jane clearly in the lead, but that meant it was Jane who ran into one of the enemy. Daria's heart and thoughts stopped; Daria's legs kept going, taking off her track and into the woods; Daria's ears told her the guy she'd hit was gaining on her.


"I WON'T DO IT AGAIN I SWEAR!" cried out Tom, but it didn't seem like the motorcycle cops and the fucking helicopter could hear him. He'd been gunning it at 70mph for two minutes now, which, he quickly realised, was not a good way to get the police to stop following you.

Something big was going down. The radio said something about "martial law" and "state of emergency". The roads were empty except for two sorts: police, soldiers, and other suited bully-boys; and incredibly scruffy people that looked like Quinn's understudies, either fleeing or fighting or being bumrushed.

By the time a police van roared alongside him with a naked Mr and Mrs Morgendorffer in, Tom's mind was suet pudding and he decided it was a good idea to just follow them.

Even when he was following them to a gigantic police-car barricade at Dega Street.

"I should probably stop the car oh too late—"

The Bentley punched its way through the barricade with a noise like Transformers BDSM, and Tom found himself surrounded by punks cheering him as one of their own and thought he'd died & gone to Hell.


Daria's legs seized up as her brain took charge again. It was obvious that she couldn't outrun this man.

"Right, missy, really fucking funny with the canvas. Now come with."

"It's Amy Barksdale you're here for, right? The timing is too big a coincidence."

"She took something that don't belong to her. Now walk."


Homeland Security had planned to raid Sick, Sad Head Office quick and hard, taking in any potential ally of Amy Barksdale. They had not expected the building to be prepared for a siege, shutting off the lifts and barricading the stairs.

"The Illuminati, I knew it, I knew it! And they thought we wouldn't see them coming! 'State of emergency', yeah right!"

"I'm updating the website with real-time reports: they can't stop the truth!"


Daria raised her hands.

And, when in range, grabbed his coat and launched herself up into the biggest headbutt she could manage.


Every malcontent in Lawndale County was descending on Dega Street, pouring in through the holes in the barricade. Tom kept asking "what's going on?" and "why is everyone breaking into a siege?", but he just didn't get it. The Zon was serving as a command centre, due to the strategic assets of being big enough to fit everyone and having a lot of beer; Hellion Wheels had maps spread across the bar, with salted peanuts representing the forces of anarchy and Hula Hoop crisps as the Man.

"With the numbers we're building up, we can make a frontal attack here. Stragglers in the county are fighting running battles here, here, and here, and 15-to-Life bar is still holding out; if we move soon, they won't be able to bring in reinforcements. We can sweep through Lawndale, street by street!"

"What about the choppers?" asked Bob, scanning the map with a critical eye. "Most of them aren't gunships, yet, but…"

"If and when they attack, we regroup where rich people live. The Man won't shell his own." Helen looked up from her map. "What's the word on the Manstream media?"

"That guy with the suit said there's bio-tourism going on," called out Jake. "The Big Lying, am I right?!"

"Not quite, sweetie. Anyone got any comments and questions?"

"Yeah, who's paying for all this beer you're drinking?" asked the owner of the Zon.


Being headbutted would not, on its own, do much to a hardened mob enforcer.

But Daria had followed that up by slamming the heel of her boot, with all the weight she could muster, into his ankle.

Crack.

The same thing was done to his trigger finger; the gun was snatched up while he was still roaring his head off.

And then she walked off.


Everyone in the art colony had been founded and dragged into the main building; nobody would be trying any heroics or calling for help, and it meant several dozen hostages to keep the ATF from making a move. The ATF meant the gang couldn't leave either, but they were working on that.

After finding out she'd been carrying a stolen super-virus for the past week, Amy, dead-eyed and defeated, just said. "I really do have a crap taste in partners."

Muddy yanked her head up. "You keep acting like this is all an accident, you think I buy that?"

"No, Mister Grimes, it's pretty clear you don't."

"Don't smart off to m–"

"Where's the ugly girl?" said Dallas suddenly. "Had a green jacket, name began with a D? I don't see her."

Muddy would have said "ah, Drover and Jenkins are still searching" if Jenkins hadn't come in, carrying a busted up Drover and saying "boss, he really did get beaten up by a girl, I swear".


Steve and Quinn had no idea of the state of emergency, because they'd been listening to Steve's Queen CDs ("no, Killer, that was a different Queen that had the fascist regime"). It came as a bit of a shock to drive into Ashfield and see riot cops and SWAT teams and vans marked Homeland Security all over the place, with the great unwashed fleeing en masse.

"Unlock the door, Steve."

"Nah. You'll join in."

"Well duh!"

"Right, I'll have to explain this in… Huh. Isn't that your sister?"


She'd walked out of the forest and through the initial chaos in town, dead eyes on the outside and a brain like an acid trip in a nuclear reactor on the inside, and stood in the middle of the not-riot, looking at both sides and calculating odds. When the nearest tactical officer noticed her, it became clear in a split-second that she was one of their targets.

There really wasn't any time to think why. She improvised.

"WE OUTNUMBER THEM."

The yell cut through the din and punks, metalheads, bikers and the rest looked at this small, weak girl, standing before the bully-boys. And bending to pick up a fallen bottle.

"They're winning because they work together, for a common cause," the girl called out. "Well, all of us, here, now, forever, have a common cause. It's to drive their sort back so we'll be left alone! Our divides and differences don't matter compared to the DAMAGE we can do if we stand together against them."

It took a few seconds for her words to sink in. It would take a few more for her audience to see all the problems and flaws in her argument, which is why she started walking before that could happen.

Right towards the enemy lines, bottle raised like a sword.

"Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!"

The scattered, disparate gangs turned into a surging fist of anarchy that thundered past her.

Still got it, she thought.


"Unlock the door, Steve."

He handed her a truncheon. "Yo."


It lasted ten seconds and Daria took a few glancing blows – which could have come from anyone, really – that would give her a few photogenic bruises, but the filth were being pushed back, outnumbered and outviolenced. Their ranks broke like the Walls of Jericho.

Most of the army surged onward, pursuing their enemy, but there were enough people left standing around, pumped up on adrenaline and rhetoric, for her purposes. (One of which was her sister, but Daria didn't have time to question that either)

"These are not the only enemies!" she yelled. "Ashfield's art colony has already fallen to some total bastards who think they're the hardest gang around! Who wants to correct their mistake?"


Things were getting very bad in the Annapolis war room, unless you were a travelling salesman specialising in blood pressure drugs and stress balls. Loeb was steadily disintegrating as even more and more reports came in, and the markers on the situation maps flew around the map like they were trying to escape.

"Spiral and DeMartino are off the grid, we have no idea where they are now—"

"Oakwood rioters are doubling back up Main Street—"

"Estimate three hundred at Dega Street—"

"Two teams lost in 'Weed Underground', requesting aid—"

"Asking to withdraw from Ashfield centre—"

"Reinforcements requested at Sick Sad—"

"Target Barch has managed to turn two of our agents, they're firing shots and screaming about pay gaps—"

"Recon team at Good Time Chinese are reporting – no, that can't be right…"

"Highland County gone to shit, direct quote there from Captain Whiteman!" An agent began to push all the white markers in the Highland map towards the school. "Homeland, DEA, and Rangers have been pushed back to the high school, they're under siege and the Guard are preparing helicopter evacuations!"

"It just got worse again, sir! Sick, Sad World's website has been spotted by malcontents and the wider media – police and press are reporting angry build-ups in New York, LA, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle, and outside our embassies in London, Canberra, Berlin, Jakarta… Update to that! Hackers have launched sympathy attacks, sir! They're—"

"They're making it harder to access our websites!" said Rawles in mock horror.

"How did you know?!"

"Helicopter raid on Sick Sad!" snarled Loeb. "Take out their power and signal! Tell Texas Guard to lay down fire! And recall every secondary team in Lawndale to Dega Street, we crush this now!"

"First sympathy riot already, sir! West Baltimore!"

"How will anyone notice?" asked Rawles.

"Loeb, sir, we have a phone call from the White House-"

Loeb found whole new glands to sweat from. "I'm not available take a message."


Thousands of years ago, at Thermopylae, three hundred Spartans stood against a greater army, with no hope or aid except for the four hundred Thebans, seven hundred Thespians, and an unknown number of helots who were also there but didn't have as good a marketing team.

Now, in Lawndale, three hundred punks marched towards the Man's lines, and there really were just three hundred of them. Punks are better than Spartans. Maths.

Hellion Wheels led the army, a chain round her right arm and a big stick in her hands, flanked by a force of the big, the bad, and the ugly. To the sides of her mob, Dega inhabitants set their own cars on fire as they got carried away.

The riot cops and soldiers readied their weapons. "LAST WARNING!"

"pbbbbbbbtttttt." Hellion raised her stick. "MUSIC!"

There was an embarrassed few seconds when the Zon speakers blared out some disco music ("It's not mine, I swear!"), but then it got round to blaring out Straight To Hell and the mob charged…


Muddy knew that Daria would be calling the law in; it was time to go. They'd have to break out past the ATF guns, which would be risky, but hostages would help. Plus, he could make Dallas take point as revenge.

Or he would have, except Dallas had been throwing out I'll-put-out vibes at him for the last hour and talking about how impressed she was and "remember how good a team we made…". This slowed things down (especially from Dallas' POV, which revolved in around becoming old some day).

"I know I've made mistakes, baby, and I'm willing to… make it up to you."

"I've only just met you people," said Jane, "but you're not going to fall for that, Fat Guy With Gun, right?"

"She's one of our takeaway hostages," Muddy told his gang.

"He's gonna fall for it," Jane told the other hostages.

"Or maybe we shoot her to show the filth we mean business."

Yeah, I do not think straight when I'm terrified, thought Jane.

Dallas pointed lazily at Erin. "Shoot that one. She really got on my nerves."

Amy started to yell and move forward, but as struck down; it was hard to scream abuse when she was gasping for breath. The Grimes didn't even bother to look.

Erin, pale and shaking, looked for a sign that this was a joke and saw none. She took a deep breath.

And then roared out: "I wish you'd done it weeks ago so I wouldn't have had MY rightful oxygen stolen by you, you waste of silicon! God, the amount of precious brain cells I had to waste on your vacuous prattle, it was preferable when you farted and that is like choosing Mussolini over Hitler! The best part of you dripped out of your mother's crack! What are you staring at?!"

"Nuh nuh nuffin," stammered Harry the Bastard, a gangster who once shoved a man through a paper shredder.

Muddy dragged Erin, screaming abuse at the top of her lungs all the way, out and into the eyesight of the waiting ATF duo. He was going to call out for them to watch but the woman was drowning him out, and she'd probably got their attention anyway (especially with that remark about his face looking like a "pile of butts") .

She was so loud, he couldn't hear the cars and bikes until they were almost on him.

"What the f–"


The Dega Street barricade staggered back and spat blood & teeth into the corner. As did two separate Homeland men when Helen used one to headbutt the other with someone else's head.

Reinforcements, acting on foaming orders from Annapolis, drove the dark horde back with tear gas and rubber bullets, their own side being written off as collateral damage.

"RETURN FIRE!" yelled Helen, the cue for bottles and rubbish to be hurled at the enemy – suppressive fire only, and temporary. But it gave them precious seconds for Bob to run down from the opposite end of the street.

"The National Guard are massing back there, they think they're going to hit us unprepared in the rear!" He grinned. "Roof now?"

"Roof now!" She waited for Bob and a few dozen punks to slip away into the night, then signalled for the barrage to stop. "ADVANCE!"

Back at the Zon, Straight To Hell ended and was replaced by a cover of Straight To Hell.

Rubber bullets went past and into the charging punks; Jake, red and raging, voiced the immortal battle cry "THOSE RUBBER THINGIES HURT!" and shoved a gun up a man's left nostril. People hit faces with knee, fist, head, bottle, truncheon, and a dead fish. The barricade began to crumble.

And behind the riot, National Guard soldiers with riot shields and full clips advanced.

Advanced past buildings where thirty punks with full bladders were waiting.


"Second Pincer are falling back from Dega Street – chemical attack!"

"Terrorists! See! All of them!" Loeb had run out of foam for his mouth two minutes ago. "Tell the other cities: tell them all punk gatherings count under counter-terror law!"

"Yeah, about that, sir – that Homeland team you asked to raid the LA gathering? We've lost contact and now there's reports of a riot—"

"Sir, the President is on the phone, emailing, tweeting—"

"Destroy the Zon. Destroy the Zon! That will re-establish our authority, tell the gunship to airstrike the Zon now!"


They'd swarmed across the art colony before Muddy could quite grasp what he was looking it, and the next thing he knew he'd been hit by a bottle and his grip was lost on the hostage and every parked car belonging to his gang had been Molotov Cocktailed. The sound of breaking windows and doors and burning shit and yelling was everywhere, (some of it directed at random, uninhabited huts because some people had forgotten why they'd come there).

He and his gang had expected the law. This was definitely not the law. The law dressed better than this.

And there was that girl in the jacket Dallas had mentioned, right in the eye of the storm, meeting up with Erin. Muddy aimed his gun at her head.

"Hey. I'm called Steve."

And when Muddy got off the ground, his nose was gone.

"…right."


Three of the gangsters had come out to meet this attack, and that was their mistake because they wasted valuable seconds saying "dude, what the f" before they were mobbed and became closely acquainted with many types of boots. That left six hostiles, counting Dallas, according to Erin – seven if you counted Muddy but he seemed busy re-enacting every known ECW match with Steve.

Those six would have been swiftly overwhelmed if they hadn't fired warning shots from the hostage hut ("ow, my knee!" cried a warned person). That pretty much dampened everyone's enthusiasm.

"What are we going to break now?" asked someone.

"I heard there's an artist here called Alison who totally supports the man," said Daria. "Her stuff is… I have no idea. It'll have her name on."

That got rid of any of the mob that weren't busy stomping some guys: useful. An opening was needed.

"Quinn? Steve brought his tear gas and gas mask, right?"

"I get my own gas and mask now, bitch! I wrote my initials on it! Kay-Que-Em!"

"Excellent."

Behind her, there was a great crashing sound as a grappling Steve & Muddy went through a hut wall.


News helicopters were over Dega and Jake had to be stopped from waving at them.

"The whole world is watching!" roared Helen, before hitting a policeman with a police-car door. "Keep fighting! Show the man!"

"The whole world is watching!" roared Sergeant Butcher, before hitting a punk with a police-car door (well, they do have four). "Don't look like pussies!"

And then came the sound of rotors, coming closer and closer; and then the sound of something coming through the air, very fast.

And then there was a bright light, and everyone turned to see the Zon was missing a wall, and its roof was yawning inwards, and then a great plume of dust and filth rising into the air.

Every rioter's heart skipped a beat.

And then they turned, as one, to the law.

"New orders, everyone run like fuck!" roared Butcher.


In the hostage hut, Dallas was taking charge: "We don't know who this outfit is, but we do know they aren't armed and gunfire scares them. Plug a few of them, we should be able to waltz out."

"It's your husband who's paying us," said Little Ricky.

"Once I sell the X-5, I can double whatever he's done."

"Huh." Little Ricky turned to Jane. "You were right, Muddy shouldn't have fallen for it. Oh well, not like we're known for our honesty."

The front of the hut erupted with tear gas. The gunmen at the front staggered back, coughing, but not fast enough to escape the raging figure in the gas mask that tore through the gas and into them with truncheon and head.

"MOVE ALONG!" the demon roared, smashing one to the ground and turning on the other. "SETTLE DOWN NOW!" The annihilation-by-truncheon of his genitals, then shoving fingers up his nose and ripping them through it. "I'M ON BREAK!"

The rear wall smashed in under the weight of many lead pipes and boots, and angry pierced youths took down two more men from behind. Any chance at regrouping in the hut was fucked, and so was all but three of the gang. All but two, in fact, since Dallas was running out with a hostage already.

"Fuck it," said Little Ricky, running after.

(Harry the Bastard would have followed but Erin entered the room, and he fell to the ground begging for mercy. Quinn kicked him.)

Someone whipped out a chain at Ricky's legs – not hard, but it was enough to cause him to trip. He started to get up when the boot slammed down on his head.

Daria left him to unconsciousness and carried out walking. Dallas' hostage had looked like Amy.


Steve went through another wall, and a snarling Muddy came after him in a bodyslam – "REJECTED!" yelled Steve, rolling out of the way.

"I don't know who the hell you are but no one is going to get in the way of me and the X-5!"

"The what now?"

"You… you don't even know?! The X-5 is only… currently with…. Dallas oh fuck!"

Muddy ran off, ignoring as Steve said, "yeah, that means I win".


"Six sympathy riots! Punks are attacking the embassies! The Lawndale mob is tearing through the town, we're not holding them back, choppers report they're heading for the local Guard base!"

"EVERYTHING WE HAVE LEFT is to intercept! LIVE ROUNDS!"

"Oh is that the time, I have to go," said Rawles, putting his jacket on. "Sorry Loeb, didn't hear what you last said."


Scattered forces of law and order, gunships hovering above like vast wasps, stood ready at Seven Corners. The punks came in a wave of rage, crying for blood. Nothing could stop them together and blood staining the streets.

Nothing but the sound.

A mass of rust pretending to be a van trundled towards them all, a man standing on the roof. From that man came the sound, a discordant wrath of the gods, digging right into your soul and triggering something primal.

"AAAA THIS WHOLE SITUATION IS STUPID WHO WAS THE FUCKHEAD WHO TOLD YOU TO DO THIS A FUCKHEAD THAT'S WHO FUUUUUUUUUUUUU"

The filth lowered their guns.

"UUUUUUUUUUUUUUC"


"Sir, the… (Are you sure? Okay) Loeb, our men have stood down and told us their orders quote suck unquote. And a third of them have now joined the rioters and want them to come here."

Loeb collapsed in on himself like impotency.

"Sir, the President is making a personal visit and he looks pissed."

"mblblbl"


Dallas was two minutes through the woods, Amy yanked along by her hair, when a furious, gun-wielding Muddy caught up with them. Not missing a beat, Dallas said: "Good to see you, hun! We keep cutting through this way, we can get into town, jack a car—"

"What? But you—" Muddy gave up. "We'll call Nassiri on the road."

"What the hell was all of that back at the art camp anyway? Did we piss off the Hells Angels again? Because behind you!"

He fired two shots behind him before turning to aim – any normal enemy would have dived for cover after that – but the green-jacketed bitch hadn't moved and once he had her locked she had him locked.

With her glasses, in this light, you couldn't make out her eyes at all.

Time

slowed.

"Drop the gun, girl." Dallas, sounding rattled despite her words. "You can shoot him first, but then I get you. And you can't shoot me with your aunt in the way. Your aim isn't that good."

The girl's lips started to curl up in a smile.

Muddy was starting to sweat. Normal reaction to a gun pointed at you, didn't mean anything. She wouldn't fire. She didn't have what it takes.

"Smile all you want, you're just some middle-class brat with a borrowed gun," sneered Muddy. "You think you can play the big boy's games?"

The girl's lips slowly parted until she was grinning with every tooth.

And you still couldn't make her eyes.

"Bluffing won't work."

Did her grin get wider?

"Put it down," said Dallas, "or I shoot your aunt."

Time

slowed

as the girl dropped to one side, firing

once

twice

the grin vanished and no expression on her face; the shots were being sent Dallas's way, aimed away from her, just done to scare her into dropping the hostage and taking cover

while Muddy fired a shot that went where Daria had been, but he was starting to move his aim when he felt something soft tear inside himself

and there was a growing red patch on his side

time

sped up.

Muddy fell, screaming as the pain caught up with him. Another man was screaming louder: "ATF! EVERYONE FREEZE!"

Muddy dropped his gun and began to raise his arms as he turned – he could get out of this, maybe, but not if he was dead. "Alright, you–"

That ATF woman pointing a gun at hi


"Resisting arrest," she said, not bothering to look at the corpse. "You all saw. Especially you, Mrs Grimes, right? Ms Morgendorffer, put the gun down."

Daria realised she was still pointing at Dallas, from where the woman had dived. "Oh." She dropped the gun – which made it go off. "Gah! Sorry. I borrowed it from a guy. Well, I say borrowed. Stole."

"I'm ATF Agent Hurly. This is Agent Bork. We know who you and your aunt are." She clicked her teeth. "Obviously, we'll need to have a little chat about exactly what's been going on."

Amy raised her hand. "Is it to do with this… I dunno what it is. This grey box thing Dallas was keeping in my handbag."

"The X-5 supervirus. Capable of wiping out entire nations."

"You are crap at dating," Daria told her aunt. "Okay. We'll come sarcastically."

"Would you have actually fired to kill?" asked Bork suddenly.

"Sorry, I don't argue philosophy with strangers."


It was strange, but almost the entire war room had to go to the toilet just before the President came in. Loeb was alone, unloved, and probably would be unmourned at this rate.

"Loeb?"

"M-M-Mister Puh-President."

President Obama paused, as he did before making one of his more articulate and intricate speeches, and then, with a brow knit with concentration, said: "You suck."

"I'm back," called out Rawles, "so, Loeb, how's it going oh shit."


"We now go live to Tara on the scene – Tara, what's the situation?"

"Well, as you can see behind me, the mob has halted outside of Lawndale County limits since the arrival of Attorney General Holder, and a large beer truck, ah, that we believe was a gesture of good intent. We can again confirm that despite Pentagon claims, a number of the National Guard, Homeland Security, and the Maryland State Police have indeed mutinied.

"While the situation is calming after Holder's direct negotiations, there are many unanswered questions – ranging from just who was the mysterious guitar player who reportedly caused the mutiny—"

Jake pushed the reporter aside and said: "Anthony DeMartino's sound is just that punk! His first single is going on iTunes tomorrow! Yeah! Hi sis!"


The effects of the Punkrising would reverb throughout the States for years – and the world, in the case of the new punk revival that would dominate western, Asian, and post-Arab Spring music for three years. (The revival met its end when Anthony DeMartino, the front man for it, suffered a minor stroke at a Tunis concert after screaming for a whole minute without stopping or breathing.)

A great culling was launched against Homeland Security, which bore the brunt of the government's blame. Special Agent Loeb escaped jail after he was declared mentally unfit to stand trial, and would remain in care for twelve years. Superintendent Rawles quickly turned supergrass and "retired" early, ensuring the survival of the State Police (and his pension). As a lucky side effect, the Maryland State Police were now recognised as the best trained and equipped counter-riot force in the States, and would train other police services for many years.

In order to get everyone to go home, and because the mob could genuinely claim "but they started it", an amnesty was declared in Maryland. The 2012 election was dominated by debate over this and the riots in general; the Republicans would take all Congress seats, and later the governor, in that state. In order to stand against sustained Republican criticism, Obama and his Cabinet went a massive verbal offensive, and got the Democrat Party to lock ranks (after Obama's infamous "Shut The Fuck Up" meeting with party dissidents). Months of conflict would lead to a narrow Democrat victory, the collapse of the Republicans into two new parties (who spent twelve years out of power after that big a failure), and Obama being caricatured as a punk by comedians until 2016.

Despite gloomy economic forecasts, the economy of Lawndale would shoot up from tourism. People from across the country and world began visiting to see the Dega Street, and other towns began to profit from tours run by former rioters, taking people to the various places they'd hit policemen and been hit. The rebuilt Zon, by contrast, almost failed, until Morgendorffer Consulting rehired its old anti-cleaners to spread dirt & beer stains and vandalise the toilets. After that, the locals flocked back to it.

Part of the great punk revival was the spread of ri-art: a new style pioneered by young artists who'd been hostages at Ashfield Colony of the Arts and witnessed the great battle. The style would eventually become a parody of itself and overrun by poseurs, until a revival after the Beijing Revolt of 2026. Strangely, this style was not followed by the artist Alison Biffsen, who dropped out of the art world: witnesses say a teenage girl in a field jacket had a conversation with her, and Biffsen was quite shaken afterwards.

Sick, Sad World became even more famous and prosperous for being one of Loeb's key targets. Unfortunately, this went to SSW's head and it deliberately tried to piss off the US government again in the hope of a second attack. To the horror of its devoted fans, Sick, Sad World had become a real-world news programme and they fled in droves.

The recovery of the X-5 virus, occurring at the same time Homeland Security had wrecked national security in pursuit of the same thing, turned the ATF into the top dogs of US law enforcement. Bork became director within five years, with Special Agent Hurly as his attack dog (and, the theory went, power behind the throne). Serious questions were asked in Congress about why the fuck the army had even made the bloody thing.

All of this was in the future and unknown to Daria (except for the Alison thing, natch). All she knew was that after twenty minutes of questioning, the President himself came in and asked her to sign something that said she would never talk about half of what had happened.

"Haven't I seen you before?" he asked.

"I was at Highland High when you visited."

"Oh. Right, yes, you were the one who asked that question about my education policies." Obama stared into the distance, a haunted man. "You were the student that wasn't…. them."

"Much like Hannibal Lector's leftovers, they certainly make an impression."


"Alison apologised," said Jane. "Well, sort of. She wouldn't look me in the eye and used bigger words than normal, like she was repeating something she'd been told to say. And her hut was on fire."

"Yes, imagine that," said Daria.

"Thanks."

"If I learnt nothing else from my parents – and let's be honest, I probably didn't – it was that if someone messes with your loved ones, you go with total retaliation."

"I learnt my parents suck. You win." Jane looked around the camp; various artists were looking at the riot damage and bloodstains with inspiration in their eyes. "Y'know, I actually think I want to stay the remaining week. It looks like something fun is going to happen. I'd like to be in on it."

"And miss out on Lawndale's thrilling 'lawless anarchy' period and its looting opportunities?" Daria shrugged. "I'll keep a pizza warm for you. Hopefully, when you get back, Tom will have forgiven me for that 'drive everyone away' thing."

"He will. You know how he is with you. I wonder what he did during the riot anyway?"


Tom's head emerged from the Zon's basement. "Is the riot over yet—What the hell happened here?"


Steve threw Quinn a beer; she grabbed it, opened it, drank it.

They sat together, knuckles and faces and sides bruised, looking out on Ashfield and the wreckage therein.

"You really think I could be a security guard?" she asked him.

"Quinn, after all that, you could be a one-woman SWAT team. In Guatemala."

"The police?! Eewwwww! Don't even joke about that, Steve!"

"Won't happen again."

Quinn drank her beer and looked out into the future.


Lawndale was in a state of lesser chaos when Daria got back: burnt-out police cars and broken windows everywhere, journalists of many tongues, and drunk police and punks comparing battle-scars. The Tank was parked in the middle of the – wait, no, it had just broken down. Trent and, to Daria's shock, DeMartino were doing a duet about how annoying it was when your car breaks down. (DeMartino was really catchy)

"Mum always said Helen would do something like this one day," said Amy.

"My mum said that too!" said Erin.

"And mine," said Daria.

"You did a good job today, sprat," said Amy quietly. "And I'm not just saying that because you saved me. Mainly that, of course."

"People I loved were in trouble. I didn't have much of a choice."

"Yes you did."

"I really didn't." Daria watched the Red Cross set up an aid station. "Anyway, you were trying to help me. And I do know more about how and when to ride chaos than I used to. That may not be a good thing for wider society, but hey, it keeps me being bored."

"I dunno," said Erin. "When I think of all that's happened to us over the last two years, all the reversals and the pain and the progress…. You think there's an order in it? A, a purpose?"

"No."

"I'm going with no too," said Amy. "Anyway, what next, Daria?"


Five minutes into Daria's future:

"Tom." She hesitated at his doorstep, tried to meet his eye, tried to find words. "Um. Ah. Hmm."

"Uh. Hey, Daria."

"Um."

"Er."

"Can we have the make-up sex and pretend there was a conversation?"

"Oh thank god one of us said that."

"I love you."

"I love you."


Back in the present:

"I'm going to talk to Tom – stop smirking, Erin."

"Ha, 'talk'."

"After that…"

The town was in still in a mess, and it was likely to spread everywhere. She had no idea where she'd be going to school again come autumn, or where Jane would go, or what she'd face from a still-hostile ex-Lawndale High student body. Her relationship with Tom was constantly fractious. Her family were… her family, nuff said. And college and careers loomed in the future like great beasts.

"Whatever the hell I want."

THE END


(Future Egos:

(Tommy Sherman and Ms Nikahd as Superbowl commentators: a still-image of Kevin, wearing a Baltimore Ravens uniform, is on the screen

(The Maleficent Eleven, bar Quinn, as power-suited executives raising wine glasses

(Sandi as a university lecturer: her PowerPoint presentation is called "FLARES: Threat Or Menace?"

(Grandma Edie Barksdale in hospital, getting the last rites

(Trent wakes up, yawning, not realising he's overslept and is now in the far future

(Brittany, a US Marine, returns fire in an unknown street

(Upchuck smiles benevolently at us as he's crowned Pope

(Barch, in a wrestling ring, raises her arm in triumph after defeating a much larger male

(Pascal, in the night, doesn't realise an escaped O'Neill is behind him with metal teeth…

(Mohammed, in a shady alleyway, deals contraband to Mack

(A woman falls out of a burning building – but Tom, in superhero armour, is flying up to save her

(Astrid Magnus, inducted into Norway's elite Ninja Force

(Erin and Jodie, the front women for E&J Consulting

(DeMartino's grave – and a hand is rising from it…

(An elderly Helen and Jake lead a mini-riot of other old people in a rest home – poor nurse 'Chipmunk' is pelted with food

(Amy Barksdale, on-the-spot reporter as a UFO hovers above London

(Stacy stands proudly in an art gallery, surrounded by discordant and diverse paintings

(Quinn guards a Baltimore junior high, with a whole pile of local hoods beaten at her feet – she ruffles a kid's hair

("Vote Cindy 2020": Cindy waves to her supporters – Steve lurks as her assigned Secret Service detail

(Beavis and Butt-head, elderly and STILL IN SCHOOL

(Daria, the archetypal chain-smoking, hard-bitten 20s reporter, working away on a story; Jane checks her vintage camera; a framed story on the wall says "MAYOR INDICTED")


AUTHOR'S NOTES:

"It is the end. But the moment has been prepared for."
- The Doctor

I'm lying. It's not.

The original intention, way back when, was to continue until "Is It College Yet?" but it became clear months ago that things had gone too far to be scaled back. Yes, some characters and plots remain in an odd place (poor Stacy), but better to end up a high note of supreme anarchy than metaphorically take coke, get arrested for killing your girlfriend, and die of an overdose. There's enough left in the punkverse that I might return to it some day, like some once-cool middle-aged rocker who is desperate to sponge off his glory days, but we'll see how this goes.

On the way out, I make the original characters - Steve, Maths teacher Ewing, Astrid Magnus, Superintendent Pascal, lawyer "Foggy" Murdoch, school fixer Mohammed, that random posh student from Ep11 etc - available to any and all fans. And by that, I mean "make Steve available and some other dudes too, I guess" because let's be honest. By the time I write this, I've seen Steve in two other fics and that makes me happy.

I had absolutely no idea I was going to produce all this after just a few gags on a forum thread asking "what would a modern day Daria look like". Bloody hellfire. What a ride.

Props go to Brian Taylor for Moving Pictures and the start of the punkverse; The Excellent S for unwavering fan support and being better at doing chapter synopses than I am; my girlfriend because duh; J-D and Roentgen for allowing me to borrow some of their characters; The Angst Guy for the Backgrounders page, that helps lazy men like me populate a fic; and everyone who suggested or mentioned things that I ended up stealing for the fic.

Steve will endure.


MEANWHILE, SIDEWAYS IN TIME

"They're on the run! Pussies! We take the fight to DC itself!"


500 Years Later

"The broadcast is now being logged by ProfAlpha Ólafur Ooduya, noted historian and lecturer at the University of Bergen – you have a new blogplus out about the 'Dire Khan', Empress Daria Morgendorffer?"

"Thank you, Doona. Now that's one of the many things that is misunderstood about Morgendorffer; the title of empress was not, in fact, used during her life, but a retcon placed by Emperor Sid Janus after his rise to power. There were so many retcons about her life during the Janusian Era of the Commonwealth of Punks, combined with the loss of documents in purges and wars, that there is a real need to bring the truth back to the public.

"For example, for the first twenty years after the Treaty of Harstad and the end of the Third World War, Morgendorffer tried to run the Commonwealth under a system of anarchy. It was only the threat of climate change that forced the fourteen nations to centralise, and she held referendums every ten years on whether she should remain 'Grand Poobah' – the original term for her office. Even with this greater centralisation, there was still a great range of what 'punk' counted as, with Morgendorffer giving the great 'I Don't Give A Fuck' speech when asked to judge on who was being a true punk. It shows the true weakness of the 2190s administration that they allowed Janus to form his Authenticity Guard, and that they let him take over their history.

"And yes, Morgendorffer was a ferocious war leader and we do know that she would have preferred to keep fighting the United Nations rather than sign Hasgard, but she was also intelligent enough to play the long game. The 2040s would see the UN fall on itself in wars for resources and living space, without Morgendorffer having to do anything – save for intervention to assist the Neutral League nations in the North Sea War and the Botswana War – and she emerged into 2050 as the dominant power in the solar system. But after that, she only fought a war of defence, as did everyone, against the G'egeekajee.

"We are incredibly lucky that enough evidence was preserved by the future Eastern Commonwealth – indeed, a more accurate Morgendorffer was used to rally the secessionists! Many in the former True Punk Commonwealth were unaware of this until decades after the fact, believing Janus II's claim that the secessionists were followers of Quinnism. Even then, the East's belief that when her old supra-country needed her, Morgendorffer would return from the dead leading an army of the 1970s punk bands, began to catch on in the Tee-Cee."

"Yes, about that myth, Mr Ooduya – the Punkodox Church and Sufi-core faiths in Canadamerica still preach that the Liberation of 2401 was the return of the Prophetess. Is that just wishful thinking, or…?"

"Well, whoever did take out Janus IV has never taken credit and there were no survivors in Lawndale to record what really happened. I have to go with Daphna Satrapi on this one, it was almost certainly a covert hit by Greater Bolivia who allowed TeeCee to believe it was a divine uprising. But it certainly made a nice rallying myth…


111 Years Earlier

The great door to Fortress Zon was smashed down, a great head-shaped dent in the centre, and the Zon Guard dropped their guns and began to pray as the nature of their enemy became clear.

"Greeetinnggggsssssss! I am VERY FUCKINGGGG PISSSSSED…"

THE FINAL END