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Quinn's Code (A Daria AU)

Chapter 1 – The Esteemsters Code

Lawndale, MD, USA

Monday, September 20, 2005

The blue Lexus approached the High School.

"Girls, I just want you to know your mother and I realise it's not easy moving to a whole new town - especially for you, Daria, right?" Jake Morgendorffer said.

"Did we move?" his 15, almost 16, year old daughter, Daria, said with a touch of sarcasm.

"I am just saying you don't make friends as easily as, uh, some people," Jake said.

The car radio suddenly blared "It's all about the Pentiums!" as Jake's 14½ year old daughter Quinn turned up Weird Al Yankovic's song It's all about the Pentiums.

"Quinn, for instance?"

"That's not what I meant, necessarily," Jake said, as he switched the radio off. "The point is, the first day at a new school is bound to be difficult... "

Daria leaned forward and turned on the radio, cranking it up "... If you could use a nice heavy paperweight! The Digital Media is write protected! Every file inspected. No viruses detected..."

"Speak up Dad! Can't hear you!" Daria shouted.

"Uh, where was I," he turned off the radio. "Oh yeah." The Morgendorffers see that they had arrived at the school.

"Don't get upset if it takes the other kids a little while to warm up to you."

Quinn grabbed her bag of books and her laptop in its case as she got out of the car. "See you tonight, Daddy," she said.

With her pixie-length red hair, pretty, freckled face and pink shirt (with the logo of the first Matrix film and Keanu Reeves' face on it), Quinn attracted a lot of attention.

"Hi, What is your name?" a brunette with her hair in braided pig tails said.

"Quinn Morgendorffer."

"Cool Name," another, regal looking brunette said, in a faux valley girl accent.

Meanwhile Daria slipped out of the car and into the school without notice.

"Will you go out with me?" a boy asked. Quinn put her hand to her forehead.

'Not again!' she thought. She didn't want to go out with a boy that she had just met, without getting to know him first. "Maybe," she said. She then turned to the girl whom had said that her name was cool. "You know my name, what's yours?" she asked.

"Sandi Griffin."

"That sounds cool too," Quinn said.

"Would you like to join the Fashion Club?" Sandi asked.

"There is a vice-presidential position available," the pig-tailed brunette said.

''Fashion Club?" Quinn wasn't sure that she wanted to join such a club. "And you are?" she said, turning to the one with the pig-tails.

The pig-tailed brunette hesitated before saying "Stacy, Stacy Rowe. I'm the secretary. Sandi's the President."

"Are you two the only one's in the club?" Quinn asked, with curiosity, and starting to back away.

"Oh no. There is, like, a third member, but she is not here yet," Sandi said.

"Sorry Sandi. I don't want to join the Fashion Club," Quinn said.

"Why not?" Sandi asked, archly.

Quinn started backing away, towards the school. Her 'gut' seemed to be saying that Sandi wouldn't take a refusal lightly.

"That is not where my interest lies. Does the school have a Computer Club?"

"Computer Club? Why do you, like, want to know about that? It's full of geeks!" Sandi said.

Quinn was outraged. "I am a geek! And I was popular at my last school, despite that status! So far Lawndale appears to be much better than Highland, so I am sure I will be a popular geek here too!" She ran off towards the school.

Sandi Griffin looked at Quinn Morgendorffer as she ran into the school building "I may be a freshman, but I know that geeks are, like, not popular here!" she said.

"Why did you scare her off, Sandi?" Stacy Rowe asked.

Sandi glared at her.

"Eep!"

Mrs. Manson, Lawndale High's psychologist held a picture up in front of Quinn. "What do you see here?" she asked.

"Looks like two people talking," Quinn said.

"That's right. Can you make up a little story about what it is they're discussing?"

"They are living together and they trying to put their computers in the same network, so they can share their ADSL router. They have just got up from a session of trying to get it to work. She says that he needs to get a newer version of Windows so it can talk to her Linux system. And he is saying that if she had Windows that it would work. Then she says that she doesn't want to put up with Microsoft's crapware any more than she needs to. He then says that she should then get a Mac. She then says that PC's have better hardware..."

Mrs. Manson interrupted "Very good Quinn. Now, Dora, let's see if you can make up a story as vivid as, though less technical than, your sister's.

"It's Daria."

"I'm sorry... Daria. What do you see in the picture, Dara?"

"Um... a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains."

At recess Quinn entered the front office. The receptionist greeted her.

"Hi, I am looking for information on the Computer Club."

"Actually, there are two Computer Clubs," the receptionist said.

"Ok, I would like information on both of them," Quinn said.

The receptionist turned to the computer and soon two sheets come out of the printer.

"Here, information on the Computer Club and the Programming Club," the receptionist said, handing the sheets over.

"Thanks!" Quinn said. She then left.

At her locker, she glanced at the information on the sheets.

Club Name: Computer Club

President: Jodie Landon

Vice President: Jennifer Burns

Club Name: Programming Club

President: Andrea Hecuba

Vice President: Dewey Rogers

'Ok, at lunch I will try to get in contact with these people,' she thought. She placed the sheets in the locker and closed it.

At lunchtime Sandi entered the cafeteria to find a crowd, of both sexes, sitting around that geek, Quinn, at one of the 'popular' tables. She stopped in her tracks, causing her fellow Fashion Club member, Tiffany Blum-Deckler, to crash into her.

"What is up, Sandi?" Tiffany asked, when she had recovered from the collision. 'She usually watches where she is going,' she thought.

"That geek, like, appears to be popular! How is this happening to me?" Sandi asked, with anger. She glared at Quinn (or tried to, people were getting in the way).

"What geek?" Tiffany asked, clueless.

"Quinn Morgendorffer!"

"The new girl?" Tiffany asked.

"Yes, Tiffany!" Sandi said.

"People were talking to her in Science and in Study Hall," Tiffany said. 'I couldn't understand most of what she said. Something to do with computers,' she thought.

"Great!" Sandi said as she started moving again.

Quinn was talking to her new friends, Kristen and Cindy, about the Computer Club and the Programming club, as they ate lunch. "So you know Andrea, right?" she asked as she pointed to Andrea Hecuba's name on the information sheet for the Programming Club.

"I do. I must warn you, she is a misanthrope," Kristen Bell said.

"Oh?" Quinn asked as she took a slice of tofu off the plate.

"Like, she is not much for company. They say that she is a hacker," Cindy Robinson said.

"That reminds me of my sister. She is quite a misanthrope. I don't think she is a hacker," Quinn said, whimsically.

Kristen looked at Quinn "I think I saw her. Auburn hair, big glasses, neutral expression, ..."

"That's her, Daria. Anyway, Andrea's a sophomore, right?" Quinn said, interrupting.

"Yes, she's a sophomore," Kristen said.

"So we will have to wait until after school to talk to her," Quinn said. She took out the other sheet. Kristen and Cindy looked at it.

"Jodie's a sophomore too," Kristen said. Quinn slumped into her seat.

"What about the vice presidents?" she asked.

Cindy and Kristen looked at the sheets.

"I don't know this 'Dewey Rogers' but Burnout Girl's a sophomore too," Cindy said.

"I don't know 'Dewey Rogers' either," Kristen said.

"Burnout Girl?" Quinn asked, confused.

"A nickname. They say that she is into weed," Kristen said, whispering the last word.

"Eeewww!" Quinn said.

"My reaction exactly. Anyway we could go to the Landon's and then to the Hecuba's after school," Kristen said.

"Count me out. Andrea gives me the creeps," Cindy said.

"She is not that creepy," Kristen said.

"I don't want to go to Andrea's place, ok," Cindy said.

"That's OK, right, Kristen?" Quinn asked.

"That's OK. Quinn and I will go to Jodie's and Andrea's after school." Kristen said.

"OK," Cindy said.

"The brown Nissan Pulsar parked in front of a large house with a brown roof. "Here it is, the Landon's," Kristen's brother, Keith, said.

"Thanks!" Quinn said as she got out.

"I will give you a call when we're finished," Kristen said.

"As long as it is after 6. My shift at Cluster Burger finishes then," Keith said.

"That's cool," Kristen said.

"If we're finished by then we'll walk. I need to learn Lawndale's layout anyway," Quinn said.

"That's cool," Keith said, before he drove off.

Quinn rang the Landon's doorbell. A pre-teen African American girl came to the door. "Hi, are you here for Jodie?" she asked.

"Yes, I am Quinn Morgendorffer, a new student at Lawndale High. I'm really interested in joining the club that Jodie is president of."

"I'm Kristen Bell, Quinn's friend."

"I'm her sister, Rachel. You mean a club that she is President of."

"You mean that she's the president of more than one club?" Quinn asked. 'She must be really popular, an overachiever or both,' she thought.

"Yes," Rachel said, as if stating the obvious.

"I forgot to tell you, Jodie has a large extracurricular load," Kristen said, apologetically.

"Could have told me that," Quinn said playfully.

"Follow me," Rachel said, leading the other two into the house.

Jodie Landon and her boyfriend Michael 'Mack' McKenzie were doing homework when Rachel lead Quinn and Kristen to the Landon's den.

"Visitors for you, Jodie," Rachel said, before leaving.

"Kristen Bell, right? Why are you here?" Jodie said, looking up from her homework.

"Actually, I am accompanying Quinn here," Kristen said.

"Quinn Morgendorffer," she said, indicating herself. "I'm new at Lawndale and I would like to be a member of the Computer Club."

Jodie's expression was unreadable.

"Morgendorffer, where else have I heard that name today?" Mack mused.

"Oh yeah, do you know a Daria Morgendorffer?" Jodie asked.

"Yeah, she is my sister," Quinn said. "Isn't she weird?"

"Could have said that your sister was a sophomore," Kristen said.

"Didn't come up," Quinn said, shrugging. "Anyhow, Computer Club membership?"

"Sorry, Quinn. I don't handle the membership applications for the Computer Club. Jennifer does," Jodie said.

"Oh?" Quinn asked.

"I am sure that Kristen has told you that I have a large extracurricular load?" Jodie asked.

"Yeah, when your sister mentioned that you were president of more than one club," Quinn said.

"I am president of four clubs, vice president of three more, a member of even more, and involved in the school paper, the student council and the yearbook committee. So you see, I have to delegate," Jodie said.

"OK," Quinn said.

"So, do you know where Jennifer lives?" Kristen asked.

"I do have her address, somewhere. I'll go up to my room and get it," Jodie said. She left.

"So you want to join the Computer Club?" Mack asked.

"Yeah, and the Programming Club. Programming stuff is very cool! Except when there are bugs, but I enjoy the challenge of solving them. Many of the special characters are cute," Quinn said.

"I see," Mack said.

Jodie re-entered the den carrying a piece of paper, which she gave to Quinn. "That is Jennifer's address. You should be able to join the club."

"Cool. But how are we going to get there? Kristen's brother had to go to work," Quinn said, thinking.

"I could drive you, I was about to leave anyway," Mack said.

"Cool!" Quinn said.

Fifteen minutes later, Mack pulled up his white Plymouth Valiant in front of a small two story house with a ramshackle yard. Quinn and Kristen got out.

"Eeeewww!" Quinn said.

"They say that her mother works double shifts at the hospital to meet the mortgage repayments," Mack said as he got out of the car.

Quinn was in thought.

Kristen rang the doorbell. Soon afterwards the door was opened by a teen with long blonde hair which covered one side of her face.

"Hi, Mack. What brings you and your friends here?" she asked in a soft and relaxed voice.

"Somebody would like to join the Computer Club and Jodie said that you handle the membership applications," Mack said.

Jennifer was then in thought. "Oh, come right in, please don't mind the mess," she said.

A few minutes later, Mack, Kristen and Quinn were sitting at a breakfast bar as Jennifer served them diet sodas.

"So, you are Quinn Morgendorffer right? I heard about the new freshman geek, but I had to see for myself," Jennifer said.

"Yeah," Quinn said.

"Your sister is a sophomore, right?" Jennifer said.

"She isn't popular, is she?" Quinn asked.

"There is no way she could become popular, with that attitude of her's," Jennifer said.

"Thank goodness," Quinn said.

"That's not the way I would have put it," Mack said, responding to Jennifer.

Jennifer shrugged. "Anyway, when she came into history class, Mr DeMartino asked her about Manifest Destiny."

"What did she say?" Quinn asked, eager for any dirt on her sister.

Jennifer began to explain what occurred in History class...

History Class

Daria came into the classroom.

"Class, we have we have a new student joining us today. Please welcome Daria Morgendorffer. Daria, raise your hand, please," Mr. Anthony DeMartino said.

Daria raised her hand.

"Well, Daria! As long as you have your hand raised... " Mr. DeMartino chuckled. "Last week we began a unit on westward expansion. Perhaps you feel it's unfair to be asked a question on your first day of class."

"Excuse Me?" Daria asked, nonplussed.

"Daria, can you concisely and unemotionally sum up for us the doctrine of Manifest Destiny?"

"Manifest Destiny was a slogan popular in the 1840s. It was used by people who claimed it was God's will for the U.S. to expand all the way to the Pacific Ocean. These people did not include many Mexicans." Daria said, concisely and unemotionally, albeit with rather thick sarcasm.

'Wow, that is concise,' Jennifer thought.

Mr. DeMartino was surprised "Very good, Daria. Almost... suspiciously good. All right, class. Who can tell me which war Manifest Destiny was used to justify?" He looked to someone in the class whom was wearing a football outfit. "Kevin! How about you?"

"The Vietnam War?" Kevin Thompson asked.

"That came a little later, Kevin... a hundred years later. A lot of good men died in that conflict, Kevin. I believe we owe it to them to at least get the century right! " Mr DeMartino said, (more than) annoyed at Kevin's stupidity.

"Uh... Operation Watergate?" Kevin asked.

Mr. DeMartino was even more annoyed.

End of Flashback

"Interesting, but that Kevin sounds rather stupid!" Quinn said.

"Oh, Stupid does not begin to describe it. He doesn't get it through his thick head that I don't like being called Mack-Daddy!" Mack said.

"You know him?" Quinn asked. 'of course he does,' she thought.

"Unfortunately, yes. It's also unfortunate that he's the junior-varsity Quarterback," Mack said. Jennifer left the kitchen (unnoticed by Quinn and Mack, but not by Kristen)

"So are you on the team?" Quinn asked.

"As a running back," Mack said.

"Ok," Quinn said. She noticed that Jennifer was gone. "Where's Jennifer?"

Jennifer entered her bedroom and opened a drawer immediately to the left of the door. She grabbed one of the Computer Club membership applications and then went back downstairs.

"Here is the membership form," she said, handing it to Quinn.

"Thanks!" Quinn said. She began to fill it out.

Twenty minutes later, Quinn had finished filling out the form. She handed it back to Jennifer.

Jennifer read over the form and then placed it in her backpack. "I will show it to the office in the morning, but as far as I am concerned you are now a member of the Lawndale High Computer Club," Jennifer said.

"Yes!" Quinn squealed. "When's the next meeting?"

"Wednesday at Lunch, it will be in the main computer lab," Jennifer said.

"Cool," Quinn said.

The Valiant pulled up in front of a two story house larger than Jennifer's but smaller than Jodie's. Quinn got out of the car and immediately thought that it looked rather foreboding. She could see black curtains in two of the upstairs windows, to the right of the front door.

"So why did Cindy not want to come here again?" she asked Kristen.

"Andrea creeps her out," Kristen said.

"Now her house is giving me the creeps," Quinn said. "Like an icky feeling that I can't describe."

"You and me, both," Mack said as he got out the car.

"Let's get this over with," Quinn said as she walked towards the front door.

Quinn rang the door bell. About ten seconds later the door was opened by a Goth chick whom looked more Gothic than Kristen did. Quinn could see why she would creep Cindy out.

"Who are you?" she asked, looking at Quinn.

"Andrea, this is Quinn Morgendorffer," Mack said.

"I would like to join the Programming Club," Quinn said.

"Oh, come right in," Andrea said, without preamble.

The living room was sparsely decorated, with throw rugs on the floor and paintings on the wall. The stairs to the second level were at the back of the room, adjacent to the door to the kitchen. On the TV was a paused scene of blood being splattered. Quinn saw the TV and fought back nausea. "Eeewww! What is that?" she asked.

"American Psycho, I recently bought the tape," Andrea said.

"Yuck!" Mack mumbled.

"Ick, Andrea!" Kristen said.

"Fine, I'll change to a channel!" Andrea said, getting the hints from her guests. She then picked up the TV remote and changed the TV input from the VCR channel to a broadcast channel. Then she used the stereo system remote to start a previously paused CD. "Hip, Hip to be a square..." It was Huey Lewis and the News' Hip to be Square.

Andrea danced to the beat for a short while before pausing the CD again.

"Come on, the stuff is in my room," Andrea said.

"Okay..." Quinn said, as Andrea started going up the stairs.

The upstairs corridor was dark, with the only light coming up the stairs, from a window at one end of the hallway and a slightly open doorway opposite the stairwell. The sound of dripping water could be heard from the bathroom, making the place seem even more eerie.

"That faucet needs to be repaired," Andrea said. "Only one of many things wrong with this house," she added, as she lead her guests towards her bedroom.

"There isn't a ghost, is there?" Quinn asked.

Andrea simply unlocked her bedroom door (marked Andrea's Lair Enter at Own Risk) and opened it.

Andrea's room was all black. Black curtains, black walls, black carpet, black ceiling, black bed covers. Just about the only things that weren't black were the power outlets and various other items, including some decorations. There was a heavy smell of incense and red candles burned in various locations around the room, including around Andrea's computer set-up.

"Are those cases custom made?" Quinn asked.

"Yes. Cost my parents a bundle too. They are now making noises about me needing to get a job. Like, I don't have enough to deal with already," Andrea said.

She opened a drawer below one of the computers and took out a Programming Club membership application form. She gave it to Quinn.

"Thanks!" Quinn said.

She sat at the computer desk, and began to fill it out, whilst Andrea opened her bar fridge (hidden next to the computer desk) and took out four sodas.

"List the the Programming Languages that you have any level of skill in," Quinn read. 'Ok,' she thought as she started writing down the languages that came off the top of her head.

BASIC

C++

VBScript

Quinn completed the form and handed it to Andrea. Andrea read it and signed it. "You are now a probationary member of the Programming Club," she said.

"Probationary?" Quinn asked.

"I will test you on your proficiency in the languages that you listed prior to giving you full membership," Andrea said.

"Ok," Quinn said. 'That's not so bad,' she thought.

"You can come over tomorrow and I'll start by testing you on BASIC," Andrea said.

"That will be OK," Quinn said warily. 'Best to get it over with as quickly as possible,' she thought.

"Good, I'll see you here, tomorrow before 4:00," Andrea said. It wasn't a question.

"I will be here," Quinn said. Being in the Programming Club was worth being in the Hecuba's creepy house many times a week.

Mack's Valiant stopped outside a large red brick house on Glen Oaks Lane. (Larger than the Hecuba's but smaller than the Landon's). Quinn and Kristen got out.

"Bye, Mack. I'll see you at school," Quinn said.

Mack waved and drove off. Quinn looked at the drive way. Her father's Lexus was there, but her mother's SUV wasn't. 'She was always a workaholic,' she thought.

"Come on, I'll introduce you to my father," Quinn said as she walked to the door.

"What about Daria?" Kristen asked.

"She'll most likely be in her room," Quinn said. There was an uneasiness in her voice that told Kristen that Daria's room would be unusual.

'Cannot be any more unusual than Andrea's surely?' she mused.

"I must warn you, he is prone to going into rants," Quinn said.

"What sort of rants?" Kristen asked.

"Oh, about his teenage years..." Quinn said.

Jake Morgendorffer was reading the paper in the kitchen when Quinn and Kristen entered from the living room.

"Daddy, this is my new friend, Kristen."

"Hi, Quinn, Kristen."

"Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer," Kristen said.

"You're Goth?" Jake asked.

"What of it?" Kristen asked.

"Nothing," Jake said.

"It's not 'nothing' Daddy," Quinn said, wondering where her Father was going with his questioning.

"I have heard a lot of things about Goths," Jake said thoughtfully.

"A lot of those things may not be true about me," Kristen said. 'Although they may be of Andrea,' she thought.

"Great!" Jake said.

Linda Griffin arrived home from her job at KSBC (as Vice-President of Marketing). When she opened the front door she saw her daughter Sandi sitting on the couch, moping. She entered the house and slammed the door.

"Sandi, what is wrong?" she asked, her tone implying that she expected an answer, pronto.

"Hi, Mother," Sandi said. She sighed and then began to tell her mother about Quinn, her geekiness and her popularity.

Once Sandi had finished telling her about Quinn and the changed situation at the school, Linda put her hands on her hips and gave a disapproving look.

"Sandi, I told you. If you loose control, you need to get back in control!"

"But how, Mother?" Sandi asked, with exasperation.

"You know the social dynamics of that place better than I do. You figure it out!" Linda said.

"OK," Sandi said, as her mother went up the stairs. ''Typical Mother, she gives me general advice but not the specifics!' she thought. She knew she would have to sleep on the problem. She heard her brothers fighting in the den. 'What are they up to now?' she pondered. She then went towards the den.

The Morgendorffers were having dinner.

"...So Mack, Kristen and I went to Jennifer's, and I joined the Computer Club. After that we went to Andrea's creepy house..." Quinn began.

"Quinn! That's not nice!" her mother, Helen said. 'Why would a house be creepy anyway?' she thought.

"It was creepy!" Quinn said.

"Did it have spirits?" Daria asked. 'She would be one to be frightened of the possibility of such spectres,' she thought.

"I did ask Andrea if there was a ghost, but she didn't answer," Quinn said, giving a nervous laugh.

"Go on, sweetie," Helen said.

"Anyway I filled out this form and Andrea said I am now a probationary member," Quinn said.

"Anything else?" Helen asked.

"I was invited to join the Fashion Club, but I turned them down. The President seemed rather belligerent. While I like to dress nice, unlike you, Daria, I am not interested in fashion."

"I dress this way because it feels comfortable!" Daria shot back.

"Dar-i-a! You can dress nice and be comfortable!"

"Any other invitations?" Helen asked, hoping that Quinn would continue to tell her and Jake about her day rather than continuing to antagonise Daria (although the antagonising behaviour was usually mutual).

"Right," Quinn said, changing tack. "Well, there was the pep squad, the Anime Club and the Ham Radio Club, that is about it."

"As long as you can join them later, if you want," Helen said. "We never know how much we can handle until we try, though," she continued.

'Like I'd want to join the pep squad, or the Ham Radio Club. They are seriously behind the times! I will have to think about the Anime Club though,' Quinn thought.

"What about you, Daria. How was your first day?" Jake asked.

"Well, my history teacher hates me because I know all the answers, but there are some interesting idiots in my class."

"That's great!" Jake said.

"Jake!" Helen shouted. She did not want her husband condoning her older daughter's disdain of her classmates.

Jake tried to recover "I mean..."

"Daria, your father's trying to tell you not to judge people until you know them. You're in a brand-new school in a brand-new town. You don't want it to be Highland all over again." 'I hope she doesn't hang out with anyone like that Duo again...'

"Not much chance of that happening... unless there's uranium in the drinking water here, too," Daria said.

"I'm talking about you making a friend or two. Don't be so critical. Give people the benefit of the doubt." Helen said.

'Mom, you're talking to Daria. She doesn't give people the benefit of the doubt,' Quinn thought.

"It all boils down to trust," Daria said.

"Exactly. It all boils down to trust. Show a little trust," Helen said.

Daria was about to say something in response when the phone rang.

"I hope that isn't the Chess Club again," Quinn said. The Chess Club had called three times before Keith had picked Kristen up.

Helen picked up the phone. "Hello?" A pause. "Uh, yes, she's my daughter." Another pause. "I see. Listen, will this require any parent-teacher conferences or anything, and if so, is this the sort of thing my assistant can handle?" Another pause. "Okay, great. Bye!" She hung up.

"You girls took a psychological test at school today?"

"Yes. What of it?" Quinn responded.

Helen turned her attention to Daria. "Daria, they want you to take a special class for a few weeks, then they'll test you again."

"What?" Quinn wondered.

"It seems that she has low self-esteem," Helen said.

"What? That really stinks, Daria!" Jake said.

"Easy, Jake. Focus." She turned her attention back to Daria. "We tell you over and over again that you're wonderful and you just... don't... get it!" Helen said, slamming her fist angrily on the table. "What's wrong with you?"

"Is she going to have, like, a breakdown or something?" Quinn asked., with a little concern. 'We may not get along, but we are sisters,' she thought.

"Don't worry. I don't have low self-esteem. It's a mistake," Daria said.

"I'll say," Jake said.

"Definitely," Quinn said.

"I have low esteem for everyone else," Daria said.

'Maybe, Daria, maybe.'

Tuesday, September 21, 2005

Ten minutes prior to Homeroom, Jennifer Burns entered the office carrying Quinn's application form.

"Hi, I'm handing in a filled in application form for the Computer Club," she said to the receptionist as she handed it over.

The receptionist placed the form in the IN tray. "Wait a moment, Ms. Burns," she said.

Jennifer sighed. She knew where this was going...

"Here you are, Jennifer Burns. You have been re-entered into the Esteem-a-Teen class. It starts 3:30 at the usual classroom. Mr O'Neill will be taking attendance," the receptionist said.

She then printed out Jennifer's new timetable and handed it to her.

"Thanks," Jennifer said, as she left the office. 'It's a mistake. I don't have low self-esteem. I have low esteem for the system at this mis-run high school,' she thought.

Andrea Hecuba passed Jennifer Burns as she entered the office, carrying Quinn's application form. "I'm handing in a filled in application for Probationary membership in the Programming Club," she said, handing it over.

"Thank you," the receptionist said, placing the form on top of the form that Jennifer had handed in two minutes prior.

"That's strange, I don't remember adding Dewey Rogers as Vice-President," the receptionist said, as she looked at the Programming Club information. She then looked like she was in thought.

"Interesting," Andrea said, enigmatically.

"Someone else may have entered it," the receptionist said, as she showed some confusion in her voice.

"I am sure of that," Andrea said, flatly, as she turned to leave the office.

Lunch time. Sandi Griffin entered the cafeteria and looked around. 'That Morgengeeker is just as popular as yesterday! She has single handedly turned everything upside down!' she thought. 'Right, time to change things back!' She saw Tiffany and Stacy sitting at a table near the gaggle surrounding Quinn.

"Tiffany, Stacy, something is rotten in the state of Lawndale High," Sandi said as she put her food down. 'A bit dramatic, but it is the truth,' she thought.

"Huh?" Tiffany asked.

"What do you mean?" Stacy asked, recognising the Shakespeare reference.

"I mean that new girl has, like, turned everything upside down. She is popular despite her being a geek! We need to, like, put her in her place, before previously unpopular people become popular as a result of her example," Sandi said.

"OK," Stacy said, not sure what Sandi had in mind. She watched Sandi eat up her food at a high speed.

When she had finished eating Sandi got up. "Come on, We're going to put that geek in her place."

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Stacy asked.

"Sta-cy!" Sandi said, glaring back.

"Eep!"

"...And so Joey asked me what Linux was and I gave him a simple explanation, but he still didn't understand. But I could see that he wanted to know, so I offered to tutor him in Computer Studies," Quinn said.

"And his being cute and on the football team doesn't enter into it?" Brooke Danielson asked.

"Maybe. Wait, he's on the football team?" Quinn asked.

"You didn't know?" Cindy asked.

"He probably forgot to tell me. I am new here, after all," Quinn said.

"True, but what did he say?" Kristen asked.

"He said that he would think about it," Quinn said.

Sandi then made her move.

"Quinn Morgendorffer! Enough is enough!" Sandi said.

Quinn stood up. "What's your problem? I am not joining the Fashion Club! I have joined the Computer and Programming Clubs. If I want to join another club it would be the Anime Club, not something so shallow!" she said quickly, not allowing Sandi to get a word in.

"Geeks should not be popular! They are so nerdy!" Sandi said. "Why is she popular? Is it because she is cute? Sure, she is cute, but it doesn't make up for her geekiness."

"She is popular because she is an interesting person," Brooke said.

"Her cuteness does make up for any geekiness." Jamie White said.

"Are you jealous?" Quinn asked, something about Sandi's demeanour didn't add up for her.

"No! I am not jealous!" Sandi said, even though she was.

"Why are you confronting Quinn about her popularity then?" Cindy asked.

"Yeah? Why?" Quinn asked.

An argument ensued, and five minutes later a red faced Sandi walked away seething. Most of the freshmen had supported Quinn.

"You haven't heard the last of this, Qui-inn Geekendorffer!" She stalked away, Stacy and Tiffany following meekly behind her. 'I hope this hasn't affect my popularity.' she thought.

"That was weird. What is up with her anyway?" Quinn asked her friends, confused.

"She has always been rather tough to get along with," Kristen said.

"They say that her mom is a control freak. It appears that she is becoming one too," Cindy said.

"That doesn't explain it all," Quinn said.

"Stress, probably," Brooke said.

"Maybe. I know Stacy's name, but who is the other one?" Quinn asked.

"Tiffany Blum-Deckler. She seems slow, but is popular by her association with Sandi," Kristen said.

"You don't really know her, do you?" Quinn asked.

Kristen sighed. "No," she admitted. "But then, hardly anyone here does. You would have to talk to Stacy. If you can get her away from Sandi that is," she continued.

"What of Stacy, then?" Quinn asked, curious.

Jennifer entered the classroom where the Esteem-a-Teen class was held and sat at her usual (by now) place next to Jane Lane. Soon afterwards two new students entered. The first was a shaggy haired boy. He sat to the left of 'The Head' (She wasn't sure of his real name. It was one of those names that wasn't easy to remember. Everyone called him 'The Head' for the MTV character emblazoned on the shirts that he wore to school). The second was Daria. She smirked, remembering the history class she'd told Quinn about.

'There has to be a story about why she is here,' she thought.

Mr O'Neill began taking attendance, starting with her.

"Jennifer Burns?" he asked.

"I'm here," she said. She wondered why he had started taking attendance. 'No one has truanted the first session before, as far as I know,' she thought.

"Jane Lane?"

"Yo!"

"Daria Morgendorffer?"

"Here."

"Esteem... a teen. They don't really rhyme, do they? The sounds don't quite mesh. And that, in fact, is often the case when it comes to a teen and esteem. The two just don't seem to go together. But we are here to begin realizing your actuality... " Mr O'Neill began.

However, Daria interrupted. "Excuse me. I have a question."

'This is new. Good on you, Daria,' Jennifer thought.

"Sorry, question and answer time is later."

"I want to know what 'realizing your actuality' means," Daria said.

'You and I, both," Jennifer thought, with an inward laugh.

"It means... look, just let me get through this part, okay? Then there'll be a video!"

"He doesn't know what it means. He's got the speech memorized. Just enjoy the nice man's soothing voice," Jane said, to Daria.

'Someone had to answer her, I guess,' Jennifer thought. She knew that Jane didn't have any friends in the school.

"How am I supposed to follow him if I don't know what he's talking about?" Daria asked Jane.

"I can fill you in later. I've taken this course six times," Jane said.

"Ok," Daria said.

Jennifer then listened as Mr O'Neill droned on.

Mack's Valiant once again pulled up in front of Andrea's house and Quinn got out.

"Thank's, Mack," she said. Once the car had driven away, she turned to face the house. "It looks just as creepy as yesterday!" she said. She then went through the front gate and went to ring the doorbell. 'I hope she isn't watching another movie like yesterday,' she thought.

"Why did you agree to take Quinn to Andrea's, Mack?" Jodie asked as Mack turned a corner from Andrea's street into the direction of the Landon's house.

"I'm doing a favor for her. She seems nice," Mack said. Jodie looked at him.

"Don't worry. You're the girl for me," Mack said. 'You have nothing to worry about, you're the girl of my dreams,' he thought.

"Good," Jodie said, smiling.

Andrea came to the door and let Quinn in.

"You brought your laptop with you, good. We'll do the test up in my room," Andrea said.

"I take it everywhere," Quinn said as Andrea closed the door behind her.

"Ok," Andrea said.

Andrea's room looked the same as the day before. Quinn placed her laptop on Andrea's work bench and started it.

"Multi-boot, cool," Andrea said.

"Yeah, 2 Linux distributions and 2 versions of Windows," Quinn said, selecting the Windows 98 Second Edition option.

"Here is your objective," Andrea said, handing Quinn a sheet with instructions.

Quinn read it over. After she was sure she understood it she put it down next to the laptop and opened the BASIC IDE.

"Cool," she said.

Jennifer walked out of the Self-Esteem Class. 'That was a waste of time as usual,' she thought. She stood to the side of the door.

Daria and Jane exited the classroom ahead of 'The Head' and the shaggy haired boy.

"Jane, Daria," Jennifer called as they walked by her.

"Did you hear something?" Daria asked Jane.

"Here," Jennifer said, waving slightly.

"What do you want?" Daria asked.

"I was wondering if you'd like a lift home or something," Jennifer said, softly. 'Unlikely but other unlikely things have happened this week. Like a popular geek.'

"Did that sound like what I thought it sounded like?" Jane asked.

"Yes," Jennifer said. Unlike what most people at the school thought she did have a few friends, but they weren't particularly close friends. 'This is an opportunity. Quinn seems nice, and Jane is misunderstood by everyone,' she thought. She didn't know what to think of Daria though. She was an enigma.

"We could get home sooner," Jane said, to Daria.

"Ok," Daria said.

"Where are we going?" Jennifer asked as she drove her blue VW Beetle out of the Lawndale High parking lot.

"111 Howard Drive," Jane said.

"And you, Daria?" Jennifer asked.

"I'll visit Jane," Daria said in a monotone.

"Thanks, Amiga," Jane said.

"And in the class after the role-playing the boys and girls are separated and a female teacher talks to us about body image," Jennifer said.

"What do they talk to the boys about?" Daria asked, although she knew what they would most likely talk about.

Jane looked at Daria in the seat next to her. "A classroom full of guys and a male teacher?" she asked rhetorically.

Jennifer pulled the car up. "Nocturnal emissions," all three said (although Daria and Jane's exclamations drowned out Jennifer's). Jennifer then drove off again.

"I don't get it. You both have got the entire course memorised. How come you can't pass the test to get out?" Daria asked.

"I could pass the test, but I like having low self-esteem. It makes me feel special," Jane said.

"Me too, but I thought that I wouldn't give Ms. Li the satisfaction," Jennifer said, as she turned into Howard Drive.

The Beetle pulled into the driveway of a cream coloured old house with an ill-maintained yard that had an interesting looking ornament in it. Daria could see that the mailbox had Jane's last name on it and that the house was near the end of the street. Jennifer pulled up behind an old blue Plymouth Satellite.

My brother's home," Jane said, as she got out.

"Brother?" Daria asked.

"His name is Trent. You should meet him," Jane said, smirking.

"Looks like she's going to try to set you up with him," Jennifer said.

"I hope not," Daria said, as she clambered out.

"He's asleep," Jane said as she came down the stairs.

"Asleep?" Daria and Jennifer asked in disbelief.

"He sleeps an average of 15 hours a day. You have to know him for it to make sense," Jane said. Her eyes widened.

"What's wrong?" Daria asked.

"The Bank!" Jane said with foreboding

Jennifer and Daria looked outside. Two tall, well built, men had pulled up near the letter box and were walking up the path.

"They're foreclosing?" Daria asked.

"Not if I can help it!" Jane said.

Jennifer slammed the door and locked it.

That's not going to hold for long. Try to hold them off, whilst I try to find a checkbook and forge my Mom's signature," Jane said.

Jennifer leaned against the door. "Your Mom's not here?" she asked.

"She's in Kenya, or is it Uganda? One of those East African nations anyway. She is studying native pottery," Jane said.

"What about your father?" Daria asked.

"He's taking photos in Namibia or Angola, or was it Botswana or even South Africa? Somewhere there," Jane said, as she dashed off.

The suits knocked on the door.

"This is not good!" Jennifer said, not so relaxed as usual.

"I hope the other doors are locked," Daria said.

.1

Jane locked the door from the garage into the kitchen and then ran and locked the back door. She shook her head. She knew that the other members of Trent's band, Mystik Spiral, had forgotten to lock the doors after their practice that morning.

.2

The door was moving back and forth. "They're trying to break the lock!" Jennifer said.

"We're going to need a chair," Daria said.

"You can get it. I think I'm stronger," Jennifer said.

"You may be right," Daria said, she then went towards the kitchen.

.3

Jane was rummaging in the her parent's bedroom for a checkbook. So far she had emptied all the drawers onto the bed. 'One has to be here! I don't think they would put it up in the attic.

.4

Daria returned with a chair and placed it under the knob.

"Good, they're getting restless," Jennifer said.

They both could hear rather descriptive expletives being yelled.

.5

Jane finally found the checkbook at the back of the top shelf at the back of the walk in closet.

"I don't know why they left it up there," she said as she forged her mother's signature on one of the checks. She then went to see how Daria and Jennifer's efforts were holding up.

The door was bulging when Jane jogged up to it. The handle was cracking as the goons tried to push the door despite the chair and the efforts of Daria and Jennifer.

"I've 3 signed checks, but how are we going to give it to them without them giving the foreclosure order?" Jane asked.

"Go out a window?" Daria pondered.

"Good idea," Jane said. She opened the window to the right of the door...

Ten minutes later the three new friends were relaxing in the kitchen. "It's lucky that you did offer to take us home, Jennifer. I would have had a very nasty surprise when I got home," Jane said.

"You're welcome," Jennifer said.

"Was an interesting experience, to be sure," Daria said.

"Daria, would you like to come with me to pick up your sister from Andrea's? I don't want to go to her house alone," Jennifer said.

"You think that Andrea's house is creepy too?" Daria asked.

"It is very creepy," Jennifer said.

"Bad enough that Quinn thinks its creepy, but you too?" Daria asked for clarification.

"Amiga, you haven't been there. It has a creepiness that one cannot describe!" Jane said, shivering.

Daria turned to Jennifer. "I'll come with, but why are you picking up Quinn?" she asked.

"I would like to get to know her better," Jennifer said.

"I guess so," Daria said.

Jane waved as the blue Beetle drove off. 'Who knew that Jennifer was actually interesting once you got to know her,' she thought. She turned to go back inside and saw Trent coming down the stairs.

"Hey, Janie. How was school?" he asked.

"I met a new friend, Daria. She's just arrived in Lawndale. You'd like her. I also made friends with someone else whom I'd hadn't considered before, Jennifer. I think she has been to some of your gigs," Jane said.

"Cool," Trent said.

"Quite an interesting situation back there, don't you think, Daria?" Jennifer asked. 'She may seem antisocial, but she's actually shy,' she thought.

"It's an inspiration for my writing," Daria said.

That piqued Jennifer's interest. "You write stories?"

"Amongst other hobbies, yes," Daria said.

"Cool," Jennifer said.

Daria and Jennifer walked up the Hecuba's front path. Jennifer rang the door bell.

"I admit, it does look slightly creepy," Daria admitted.

"The outside is nothing compared to the inside, particularly the upper story," Jennifer said quietly.

.6

"Almost done," Quinn said.

Andrea looked over Quinn's shoulder at the code. "Very good, Quinn," she said.

The doorbell rang.

"I'll be right back," she said with slight irritation.

"Ok," Quinn said.

.7

Andrea opened the door. "Who are you?" she asked, looking at Daria.

"Daria Morgendorffer, Quinn's sister. I'm in some of your classes," she said. 'She is quite bruesque, isn't she?' she thoguht.

"You know me," Jennifer said, her voice barely above a whisper.

"You're Quinn's ride?" Andrea asked.

"Yes," Jennifer said.

"Oh, come right in," Andrea said. "You can wait here, or you can come up to my room."

"I'll go up," Daria said.

"I will too," Jennifer said, with a shudder. 'I wouldn't stay down here alone if you paid me a hundred bucks!' she thought, she stayed close behind Daria.

.8

"Done, and ready to run," Quinn said. She then Daria and Jennifer follow Andrea into the room. "Dar-i-a! Do you have to ruin everything?" she asked.

Andrea raised an eyebrow. 'Hyperbole much?' she thought.

"Just hitching a ride with Jennifer. It seems you are too," Daria said.

Quinn looked at Jennifer. "Thanks," she said. She then turned to Andrea. "I'm ready."

"Cool. Then run it," Andrea said.

340 Run

A kaleidoscope of colour erupted across the monitor.

"Very good, Quinn. You get an A for BASIC," Andrea said.

"Yes!" Quinn said, jumping.

"Be sure to be here tomorrow for C++ before 4:00," Andrea said.

Quinn looked nervous "Um, could we do VBScript tomorrow?" she asked.

"No, VBScript on Thursday. C++ tomorrow," Andrea stated.

"Where is the car?" Quinn asked as she, Daria and Jennifer got off the Hecuba's front porch.

"There," Jennifer said, pointing to her car.

"A Beetle!" Quinn exclaimed. 'That is not good taste, and I don't get the 'it's not a car, its a time machine' argument.'

"What's wrong with that?" Jennifer asked.

"It's old!" Quinn said.

"It was all I could afford," Jennifer said.

"Sorry," Quinn said, as she came up to said VW. 'I change my mind. She could have gotten something much worse,' she thought.

"Apology accepted. Where to?" Jennifer said, as she started the engine.

"1111 Glen Oaks Lane," Daria said.

"Actually, we need to stop by the Mall. I need to get a book on C++," Quinn said.

"What about the internet?" Daria asked.

"Dar-i-a! There is only so much help Google or Wikipedia can give a person! A book is so much easier," Quinn said.

"Ok, but straight in and straight out, and the Books by the Ton had better have a book on C++!" Daria said.

"Ok, the Mall and then Glen Oaks Lane," Jennifer said as she pulled away from the curb.

The Morgendorffer sisters and Jennifer returned to the latter's car laden with books.

"So we spent more time in the book store than expected, so what?" Quinn asked.

"Partially my fault anyway. The stores in Highland were never as well stocked as this one. I got this really good book on the life of Mozart," Daria said.

"At least I got the book on C++. What about you, Jennifer?"

"A book on Dungeons and Dragons and a Bruce Stirling Cyberpunk book," Jennifer said, as she opened the door.

Helen dashed outside when she saw the Beetle pull into the driveway behind her SUV.

"Daria! I've been waiting for you to get home since 4:30!" she said, as she came up to the passenger side of the Beetle.

"Hi Mom. I've been making a couple of friends," Daria said.

"Hi Mom," Quinn said, as she got out.

"This is unusual. The two of you taking the same route home after school?" Helen said.

"Hi, Mrs. Morgendorffer. I offered both of them a lift," Jennifer said as she got out.

Helen scrutinized Jennifer for a second before turning her attention to Quinn. "I don't see you waiting after school whilst Daria was in the Self Esteem Class," she said.

"Actually I was at the creepy house when Jennifer and Daria came around," Quinn said with a nervous laugh.

"I'm the Vice President of the Computer Club and I'm also in the Self Esteem Class," Jennifer said, remembering what Quinn had said about her mother on the way to the Mall.

"So, you're that Jennifer. I see. Anyway it's nice for Daria to finally have a friend," Helen said.

"Mom, why were you home so early?" Daria asked as she entered the kitchen.

"I took the rest of the day off to work with you on your self-esteem," Helen said.

"Mom, I'm in the care of experts. Any meddling by an amateur could be dangerous."

"I don't pretend I'm going to cure you, but if a lack of mother-daughter bonding is part of your problem, we were going to remedy that this afternoon."

"Oh. But you were also praising the fact that I made a couple of friends this afternoon," Daria said.

"I suppose that would also help. But tomorrow afternoon we're going to the Mall together," Helen said.

'Uh, oh,' Daria thought.

Excerpt from the Diary of Alexandra Joy 'Sandi' Griffin (September 21, 2005)

I confronted that Morgangeeker at Lunch. But, like, it backfired! The group of people hanging around her all backed her up! Like at least a quarter of the more popular freshmen are now against me! I heard whispers in class afterwards...

Sandi closed her diary and began to think of a plan. A plan on how to destroy Quinn's popularity...

Wednesday September 22, 2005

Daria and Jane walked past Quinn on the way between classes.

A boy said "So... like, what do you like to do after school?"

"Usually, I do some coding, play some games. Oh, my homework of course. But if you are asking about social activities; I like to go to the movies, or, like, a theme park or a really fancy meal now and then. A concert sounds good, if I know that somebody's got good seats and is renting a limo and stuff," Quinn responded.

"You hear that? He hasn't got a prayer," Jane said. 'I haven't seen her around. She must be new, but she is familiar somehow,' she thought.

"Tell me about it. That's Quinn," Daria said.

"Oh," Jane said. 'No wonder she's so familiar. The Morgendorffer family resemblance.'

"So, you've got any brothers or sisters?"

"An older sister, but she's a misanthrope," Quinn said.

Daria grumbled.

"Bummer!" Jane said.

Quinn met Jennifer at the entrance to the main computer lab. "How many people are there in the computer club?" she asked.

"Besides ourselves and Jodie, there are six others," Jennifer said.

"That's not many," Quinn said.

"It's more than the Programming Club," Jennifer said.

That's still not very many' Quinn thought as three more computer club members arrived. "Hi!" she said, to them as they went in.

"Hi, Quinn, they said in return. She smiled as she followed them into the classroom.

'What have I unleashed,' Jennifer thought.

Later that afternoon, Quinn rang the Hecuba's doorbell. She was slightly tired from walking two blocks from where Kristen's sister Kelly had dropped her off, whilst carrying her class notes, her laptop and the C++ book. 'Maybe I should take up the offers from Joey, Jeffy and the other one,' she mused.

Andrea opened the door. "Come in," she said.

"I am as ready as I can be!" Quinn said.

"Good," Andrea said as Quinn entered her house.

Jennifer dropped Daria off in front of her house.

"I'll see you at Jane's in the morning," she said.

"See ya," Daria said. She turned to go up the front path as Jennifer drove off. She glanced at her mother's SUV just prior to opening the door. 'This definitely not going to be an enjoyable experience,' she thought.

"What does your self-esteem teacher say?" Helen asked as she parked the SUV in the Cranberry Commons parking lot.

"He says I should think back to circumstances that brought me happiness as a child and replicate them... but I suppose Quinn's here to stay," Daria said.

Helen sighed. "Don't let Quinn hear you say that," she said. 'They can't be more opposite if they tried,' she thought.

"Here's a thought. Why don't we go to Pizza Forest for Dinner like when we were younger?"

"Daria, are you sure that Lawndale has a Pizza Forest?"

"Yes, we passed it on the way between Andrea's and the Lawndale Mall yesterday," Daria said.

"I will think about it," Helen said.

Andrea's clock radio hit 5:30, setting off the alarm. Quinn jumped.

"Was that meant to go off?" she asked, scared.

"Time is up!" Andrea said.

"You could have said 'you have until 5:30' rather than setting the alarm!" Quinn said.

"I didn't expect you to take this long," Andrea said.

"Ok," Quinn said. She turned the laptop so that Andrea could see the code.

/ Practice Program C++

Andrea finished reviewing the code. "You get a C- for C++, but I can tell you tried," she said.

"Thanks," Quinn said.

"VBScript tomorrow," Andrea said.

"Cool. I will certainly do better with that," she said.

"Good," Andrea said. 'I will see how she does. She seems like she will be a very good member of the Programming Club,' she thought.

Quinn heard arguing as she opened the door. It seemed that her mom wanted to go out, but that her father wanted to cook. She quietly slipped up the stairs.

After dropping her books, notes and laptop in her room, Quinn knocked on Daria's bedroom door. She could still hear their parents arguing. Daria immediately opened the door. "What do you want?" she asked.

"What are Mom and Dad arguing about, Daria?" she asked. 'Better to ask her than to try to ask them,' she thought.

"I suggested to Mom that we go to Pizza Forest for Dinner like we used to," Daria said matter of factly.

Quinn had also seen the Lawndale franchise of Pizza Forest near the Mall the previous day. "The place with the singers! No wonder they are arguing, Daria. Most of the people hired to be the singers can hardly hold a note!"

Daria was in thought. "I do see where it would be musically blasphemous, but I do miss those songs." Daria said.

'Of course you would,' Quinn thought. She could hear someone come up the stairs.

"Daria, Quinn, I have talked it over with your father, and we will be going to Pizza Forest for dinner," Helen said.

"But, Helen!" came Jake's voice.

"Jake, I told you. It may not be as bad as the Highland franchise," Helen said.

"Gah, I hope not!" he said.

Helen went back down the stairs.

"Great!" Daria said. She smirked and closed the door.

Quinn sighed and walked back to her room.

The Morgendorffers were eating at a booth at Pizza Forest. Daria was clearly enjoying her family's discomfort at the 'singers' attempting to get them to sing along.

Quinn was sitting with her fingers in her ears, only taking them out to take a bite out of the cheeseless pizza, and chewing very slowly. 'No wonder we stopped going,' she thought. It was just as bad as she remembered.

'It is better than the Highland franchise, but only in that the service is better,' Helen thought. She was happy to see Daria enjoying herself. 'If only that enjoyment did not come with the expense of our discomfort.'

Jake was trying to hold his rage in check. 'At least its a lot better than the cafeteria at Buxton Ridge Military Academy!' he thought. Anything was better than that horrible place...

"Row, row, row, your boat!" Daria said, smirking. 'That is more like it!' she thought.

Thursday, September 23. 2005

Daria and Jennifer entered Jane's room with takeaway breakfast. Jane was watching a tabloid show on the TV.

"This is just astounding! Here you are, blind, deaf, and barely able to walk, yet you conducted simultaneous affairs with three members of the Royal Family! The question on all of America's mind is: how did you do it?"

"What?"

"You don't get it. It's the Royal Family. You'd have to be blind," Jane said as commentary.

"Hi Jane, is that Sick Sad World? I was wondering when it was on here," Daria said.

"Hey Amigos," Jane said. "Yeah, its on in the morning, although I have heard that they are going to change it to the afternoon," Jane said.

"Quite an interesting show," Jennifer said.

"Definitely," Daria said. She and Jennifer sat down next to Jane. The scene on the TV had changed to a UFO convention that was being held close to Lawndale.

"Hi! I'm Artie."

"Artie, hello. Tell me, what brought you here, Artie."

"It was a cone-shaped craft about 15 feet long, with an air speed of, oh, I'd estimate mach 12. They kidnapped and stripped me, examined me briefly, returned my clothes, and dropped me here."

"I see."

"They pressed my pants. Did a nice job."

Daria turned down the TV. "You both know all the answers to the questions on the release test, right?"

"I've got them in my notebook," Jane said.

"I do too," Jennifer said.

"Well, why don't we just take the test this afternoon and get out of the class once and for all?" Daria asked.

"How would I spend my afternoons?" Jane asked. 'I would have more time to paint, that is for sure!' she thought.

"UFO conventions," Daria said. 'I can think of many activities. Not the least of which is exploring what this town has to offer that I would like,' she thought.

"Now you're talking," Jane said.

"Yes!" Jennifer said.

"And so, for tomorrow, I want you to make a list of ten ways the world would be a sadder place if you weren't in it," Mr. O'Niell said as conclusion for that day's session of the Esteem-a-Teen class.

"Oh, Mr. O'Neill, Mr. O'Neill?" 'The Head' asked, waving his hands, trying to get the teacher's attention.

"Yes, um... you."

"Is that if we'd never been born, or if we died suddenly and unexpectedly?"

"'Oh no!' Mr. O'Neill thought. 'I didn't expect that!' he thought for a moment, trying to salvage the situation. "Never been born," he said.

The class started filing out, except for Daria, Jane and Jennifer.

"Yes?" Mr. O'Neill asked.

"We want to take the test," Daria said.

"We all want to take the graduation test," Jane said.

Jennifer gave a small smile.

"Well! I'm glad your self-image meter is on the uptick! But there's still three more weeks of class left," Mr O'Neill said. 'They need to stay in the class for the whole time to get everything out of it,' he thought.

"This first week has been a real eye-opener. It must be the way you teach," Daria said.

Mr. O'Neill was flattered. "Oh, well... thank you very much," he said. "You look familiar somehow," he said to Jane and Jennifer.

"So can we take the test?" Jennifer asked.

Mr. O'Neill gave in and gave them the test.

"I don't think we have to go any farther. I am really pleased! I think the whole school needs to hear about this at assembly!" Mr. O'Neill said a few minutes later.

The three teens looked at each other. Their expressions said the same thing. 'Uh, oh!'

Andrea looked at the VBScript code on the screen.

Option Explicit

Set oWMI = GetObject("winmgmts:" & _

"\\.\root\cimv2")

Set myObj = _

("select IPAddress from" & _

"Win32_NetworkAdapterConfiguration" & _

" where IPEnabled=True")

"That is rather good, Quinn," she said. It looked exactly as the flowchart and the pseudocode had laid out. "You can run it now," she said. 'I am certain that there are no errors. I think she corrected them all in that proofreading,' she thought.

Quinn minimised the IDE screen and double clicked the .vbs file. The script ran without error and a drive letter on Quinn's XP system was mapped to one of Andrea's network shares.

"Cool!" Quinn said.

Andrea smiled. 'If she is this good at VBScript...'

"So I delete it now?" Quinn asked, about the connection to the network share.

"No, keep it. All the members of the Programming Club have the connection. Its a common file repository. As long as you are on my network. It's accessable," Andrea said.

"So, if I use a VPN to connect to it, the share is available?" Quinn asked, wondering why Andrea had a share that all of the Programming Club members could access...

"Yes," Andrea said.

'She is up to something. It may be worth joining the Anime Club, afterall,' Quinn thought, as she started closing the programs on the laptop.

Friday, September 24, 2005

Quinn entered homeroom carrying the information sheet on the Anime Club. As she had expected the person whom had invited her to join was the President. 'Jenna Schwartz, she's a sophomore. I'll talk to her at recess.'

.9

Jenna Schwartz was surprised when Quinn Morgendorffer walked up to her in the corridor.

"Hi, Jenna. I would like to take up your offer to join the Anime Club," Quinn said.

"That would be cool, Quinn. But why did it take so long to decide?" Jenna asked.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in a third club, but I do like Anime so the Anime Club is a good choice. Also, that Andrea is so weird," Quinn said.

Jenna chuckled. "She definitely is. Come with me and I will give you a form. Once its filled out, you're in," she said.

"Cool," she said.

Unknown to Quinn and Jenna, Stacy Rowe had overheard them from her locker. 'The Anime Club. If Sandi wasn't such a hardcase about things, I would have joined a few weeks ago,' she thought. She closed her locker and headed to the bathroom where Sandi and Tiffany were waiting for her.

The end of week school assembly was in progress.

"And once again, the bake sale was a tremendous success. We raised more than $400, which was subsequently stolen from the office, but I am confident we will get that money back. In a related note, the school nurse will be visiting homerooms on Monday to collect DNA samples. Now, Mr. O'Neill has exciting news about our after-school self-esteem class," Principal Angela Li said.

Mr. O'Neill stood and approached the podium.

"This is really going to help me gradually ease into student life," Daria said, sarcastically.

"Usually when I have this dream I'm wearing pink taffeta," Jane commented.

"I always wanted to be on assembly. Not!" Jennifer said.

"Thank you. You know, self-esteem is a little like your car's brake fluid. You may not even know you're low on it until, one day, you go to shift gears and nothing happens," Mr. O'Neill said.

"That's transmission fluid!" One of the students in the audience yelled.

"That's... what I said," Mr. O'Neill said, trying to cover his mistake. "Anyway, I'd like you to meet three students who have completed our self-esteem course faster than anyone ever before! Please join me in congratulations as I present these certificates of self-esteem to... Daria Morgendorffer, Jane Lane and Jennifer Burns."

There was some applause from the audience, but not much.

"Oh, what the hell," Jane muttered as she stepped up to the podium. "I just want to say how proud I am today. Knowing that I have self-esteem gives me even more self-esteem." She paused, looked at Daria and Jennifer and smirked. "On the other hand, having all of you know that I had low self-esteem makes me feel... kind of bad... like a big failure or something..." she said histronically.

Most of the audience began to laugh at Jane's behaviour.

"I, uh, I want to go home!" Jane said, as she let out an exaggerated sob and ran off the stage.

"Jennifer, wait!" Mr. O'Neill called out as he ran after Jane.

'That's Ms. Lane, not Ms. Burns!' Ms. Li thought, she knew that Jane was faking it even if her head Language Arts teacher didn't!

Jennifer stepped up to the podium with trepidation. There was a reason why Jodie always read the reports for the Computer Club at assemblies.

"Thank you. I am happy to have high self-esteem rather than low self-esteem. I feel I can better contribute. Thanks again," she said. She walked away from the podium and breathed a sigh of relief. She glanced at the audience.

She could see Jodie, Mack, Quinn, Kristen, Cindy, a few other friends, members of the Computer Club and a few others clapping. She smiled as she went back to her seat.

Daria stepped up to the podium. "No one can battle a terrible problem like low self-esteem on their own. It takes good coaching... "

In the audience, Sandi was sitting boredly between two boys. 'This is stupid!' she thought.

"Who cares about these losers?" one of them said.

"Hey, beats algebra, though, doesn't it?" the other, Corey Bateman said. He then high-fived his friend over the top of Sandi's head.

"Hey!" she snapped.

"Oops," the other said.

"Did you hear what I said, Sandi? I said, like, who cares how bad this is - it's still better than algebra!" Corey said.

"I, like, heard you the first time, Corey. I't's not funny!" Sandi said forcefully. 'Of course its better than algebra!' she thought.

"Ok," Corey said, leaning slightly away from Sandi.

Daria was still talking "...realize my actuality. Winning the fight against low self-esteem takes support... from teachers, from friends, and most of all, from family,"

"Is that loser still talking?" Corey asked. He was about to high-five his friend again, when Sandi glared at him. "Eep!" He leaned further away from Sandi, brushing against Stacy.

"And so, the one person I'd like to thank more than any other is my very own overachiever sister, Quinn Morgendorffer..."

Quinn was aghast. "Overachiever!" she exclamed. At Kristen's look she added. "Overachiever! She's the one with the Straight A's! I have at best a B+ average," she said, with a hint of jealousy.

"Maybe it's the extracurriculars?" Cindy asked.

"That would look like overachieving if she doesn't have any," Kristen said.

"I'm not sure," Quinn said.

"Quinn has forgotten more about self-esteem than I'll ever know. Are you out there, sis? Stand up and let me thank you," Daria said, smirking.

"She just wants to embarrass me," Quinn said.

"I guess," Cindy said.

"Obviously," Kristen said.

"That moussy brain is Quinn's sister?" Corey asked, mostly to himself. 'How is it that they're nothing alike in personality?' he wondered.

With a calculating look in her eyes, Sandi said, "Yes, there is like, too much of a resemblance for it to be otherwise."

"Yeah," Corey said.

"Not only is Quinn a geek, she is also a brain!" Sandi said. 'And so the seed is, like planted,' she thought.

Stacy observed the conversation between Sandi and Corey with trepidation. 'She can be so manipulative!, she thought.

Daria soon finished.

Ms. Li took the podium "Thank you, Ms. Morgendorffer for that inspirational speech. Now remember single file when exiting the auditorium."

Quinn walked to Andrea's thinking about Daria embarrassing her during the assembly. She and Daria were always at each other's throats, sometimes literally. 'She is a misanthropic jerk! And I am sure that she think's of me in similar terms. At least we aren't like Mom and Aunt Rita,' she thought.

As she approached the creepy house she saw that Andrea was waiting for her. She looked at her watch. It read 4:04 pm. 'Punctuality not found,' she thought as she came up to the front of the Hecuba's property.

"You're late," Andrea said pointedly.

"I thought I would walk. I needed time to think what happened during assembly," Quinn said.

"If I had a sibling and they embarrassed me like that, I wouldn't talk to them for quite a while," Andrea said, as she lead the way inside.

'You don't know Daria.'

Helen stopped the SUV in front of the Hecuba's house. "That's the house where she has been spending her afternoons?" Jake asked.

"Yes Jake, wait here, then we're going to the UFO convention," Helen said as she got out.

'Oh my, no wonder Quinn said that this place is creepy,' she thought as she walked up the path. She hoped that creepiness did not extend to the people who lived there.

.a

"You get a B+ for Perl," Andrea said to Quinn.

"Cool!" Quinn said.

There was a few knocks on the bedroom door and Andrea's mother could be heard saying "Andrea, Quinn's mother is here to pick her up."

"Let her in," Andrea said tersely.

A few moments later Helen opened the door. "Oh my, this is worse than Daria's room," she said, taking in the dark décor.

Andrea raised an eyebrow 'I guess Daria may be a closet Goth,' she thought.

"Mo-om, why are you picking me up?" Quinn asked.

"We are going to visit the UFO convention tonight," Helen said.

Quinn sighed, as she shut her laptop. "It was Daria's idea, wasn't it,"

"Yes, to celebrate her getting out of the self-esteem class early," Helen said.

"Mom, she used her speech to embarrass me," Quinn said.

"That's nothing new."

"She called me an overachiever!"

Andrea backed off, not wishing to get caught up in the Morgendorffer family's drama. 'I have enough of that with my own family,' she thought.

"Quinn, she may have straight A's but she doesn't have any extracurricular activities," Helen said.

"I suppose," Quinn said, thinking.

Andrea cleared her throat.

"Oh! Sorry for this family discussion in your room..." Helen said, pausing, not sure of Andrea's name.

"Andrea."

"Would you like to come over to our place to test Quinn next week?" Helen asked.

"I will think about it," Andrea said.

"Right," Helen said.

"Bye, Andrea," Quinn said.

10 minutes later the Morgendorffers had arrived at the UFO convention.

'This is so weird!" Quinn thought after they checked in. A lot of the exhibits exuded a creepiness at a similar level to that of Andrea's house. Of course some of them were even creepier.

"Let's go get our picture taken with the cardboard alien," Daria suggested. She lead Helen and Jake towards the cardboard alien in question.

"Uh... sure, honey. Whatever you want," Jake said.

'I don't particularly want to have my picture taken with a creepy looking cardboard alien,' Quinn thought as she stayed where she was.

"Quinn?" Helen asked.

"I'll wait here," Quinn said.

"OK, We'll be right back," Jake said.

Quinn looked around, for a few seconds before someone walked up to her.

"Hi! I'm Artie. You're cool," he said.

That was the last straw... "Mom! Dad! You guys, wait up!" Quinn said. She then went after her 3 immediate family members. 'So this is how my first week in Lawndale ends?' she thought.

Daria belongs to MTV (which is part of Viacom, which in turn is part of CBS), some dialogue from Esteemsters by Glenn Eichler.