Writer's block sucks. So does a story that just starts to get going when the writer stops updating. To every awesome Daria fan who read this WAY back in August: I hope you don't mind jumping back on board and forgiving me. I know Melody won't… *hides*

Chapter Four: Covert Operations

General Conroy scanned the crowd with his huge, frozen eyes. This mass of juvenile suburbanites looked as soft and sorry as he'd expected. Most of them would hardly be good for target practice, let alone recruiting. He'd envisioned a goldmine of young, obedient, patriotic young people willing to defend America by any means necessary. But it seemed Brutal Mercenary would have to look elsewhere. This was just a field trip, with a bunch of little scrubs who would be useless in the field.

Well, at least the principal wasn't too bad-looking. Perhaps he would see her later about…renegotiating their deal.

"Eww! Camo pants are so late 90's," a skinny redhead whined as she strolled past him with her friends.

"Let's face it, Quinn. All our wardrobes are late 90's." one with pigtails replied.

"Whaaaat are they camouflaginnnnng?" an Asian girl drawled.

"Certainly not their lack of style…" the most uppity one finished before their voices were lost in the crowd.

Conroy's muscles twitched with irritation. Little parasites on American prosperity, he thought to himself. But let them say what they wanted. The day would come when all of these brats learned some respect for their betters. Maybe tonight. Maybe as soon as one of them stepped out of line.

Actually, he was hoping for it.

Ω

"I can't believe you did that to Upchuck. And then I can't believe you did that to Upchuck. I can't believe I let you do that to Upchuck-well, maybe I can, but..." Jane babbled as she slouched into the gymnasium.

Melody Powers scouted the area with steely eyes. She had to remain focused. Even though offing people was out of the question, this mission was still part of her duty to clean up America. Nobody would notice if she left a few crumbs behind.

"Shut it, Lankowski. We don't know who might be listening." She said offhand. The gym vibrated with the worst sort of content-free pop drivel, complemented by a gaggle of clueless teeny-boppers in the latest dignity-free fashions. But, no matter. As long as these hapless consumer larvae could exist, it meant she was doing her job.

"It's Lane!" Jane retorted, unable to keep quiet. "It rhymes with 'insane!' As in, you! If you're going to go around putting nerve holds on everyone who looks at you the wrong way…"

Jesus, Melody thought, what a whiner. She's going to blow our cover. I have to stop her.

Though she would have loved to put her hands around the girl's throat and just squeeze, something held her back…and it wasn't entirely professionalism or the public setting.

There were other ways to quiet her down. Melody could be very resourceful.

A slow song began oozing from the speakers. She grabbed the peacenik's hand and yanked her roughly into the crowd. "Dance. Now."

"W-what?! I can't! I…"

"Do. It."

Melody seized Jane's arms and planted them firmly around her shoulders. She lowered her own hands to the other girl's hips, and thus began the most uncomfortable slow dance at Lawndale High since all three J's had tried to cavort with Quinn Morgendorffer at once.

Jane managed one more complaint, but her voice was hushed and shaking. "Um…I don't think we should…I mean, we're both…"

"If you tell me you're a prude on top of everything else, I swear I will kill you right here."

Jane gulped as the agent's eyes blazed up at her, betraying violent fantasies she couldn't imagine. But they also promised her something…survival. Protection. As long as she did what she was told.

Ω

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Jodie Landon muttered to herself. If it weren't so hot in here already, steam would be rising from her ears.

The Junior and now Senior Homecoming Queen , royally spiffed up in a sparkling red dress, gloves and heels, found herself sitting awkwardly behind the DJ booth playing sappy pop music for all the other students. Since Upchuck never showed up to the dance for some reason, Mr. O'Neill guilt-tripped her into taking his place. Just because she was at the top of the honor roll, president of the student council, and most likely the valedictorian, they assumed she'd be okay with yet another responsibility.

"And please remember," O'Neill had pleaded, "Only tasteful, non-offensive music at a reasonable volume. Like…Boys R Guyz."

She wanted to blast him out of the gym with Cannibal Corpse.

This is what I get for listening to my parents, she thought for the hundredth time. Go out there and make yourself known, sweetie. Don't waste time enjoying yourself, set an example. Take the weight of an entire culture on your shoulders and don't complain. Queen of the negroes queen of the negroes queen of the negroes queen of the negroes—

"Hey Jodie! Could you play—"

"What?!" she shouted.

Joey raised his hands and backed away slowly. Or was it Jeffy, or Jamie? Whatever. "Um…nothing."

Jodie sighed. This dance was really getting to her. For once, she envied Daria. Daria never felt pressured to stand out and achieve things nobody would remember in five years. She was her own person and would never be anyone else.

Jodie supported her chin on her hands and stared blankly into the crowd. Then she blinked. Say, who was that strange girl in the jacket and shades? And was she dancing with…

Ω

Jane tried not to trip over her own feet as Melody led her in awkward circles on the floor. Just as she feared, the other students were staring. And whispering. Falling over would just give them something more to talk about.

"Ohmygosh! Kevvy, where did their boyfriends go?!" a familiar voice squeaked.

Jane frowned. The limits of a faux-politically correct society were easily reached. But she couldn't bring herself to care anymore. The whole world could be condemning the two girls for dancing in public—and the whole world would be wrong, because one of them was Melody Powers.

"There," Melody whispered. "You're doing better, pinky."

Jane blushed, staring back at her in disbelief. The music enveloped them and their steps began to flow more naturally. Melody's hands slipped lower, making her gasp. How many people had those hands killed, at least in her twisted mind? Crazy as it was, Jane found herself believing it too.

Worse yet, it was starting to turn her on.

Her only regret was that it was far too good to last. A few seconds later the music cut off and a megaphone screeched to life.

"Attention, students," squawked the voice of Principal Li in a barely controlled panic. "This is your principal, Angela Li. It has come to my attention that two girls are now dancing. Er, with each other!"

Melody put her hands on her hips and stared defiantly in the direction of the voice. Jane slapped her forehead. Suddenly the idea of mass murder didn't seem so bad.

"Please remain calm and continue with the dance as planned. I want to assure you all that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, at least until someone complains about it. And the next student caught making faces at the security cameras will be forcibly ejected—er, asked to leave. Thank yoooou!"

The gym erupted in teenage gossip. Finally the music started up again.

"Um, look Melody," Jane said quickly. "I know you're probably pissed off right now, but..." She turned about. "Melody?"

She was gone.

Ω

"Gee, Quinn," Sandi Griffin's voice dripped with insincerity as she eagerly awaited her best friend's humiliation. "How embarrassing for you. That girl who looks almost like your sister was dancing with that crazy artist." She looked toward Tiffany and Stacey for support, but they were rendered speechless.

Quinn Morgendorffer didn't react at first. She just stared across the dance floor with an unreadable expression.

"Didn't you hear me? I said, I feel so awful for you."

Quinn turned and regarded her with an expression usually reserved for expired carrot sticks. "…Oh, go to hell, Sandi."

She lingered a moment to enjoy Sandi's astonishment and marched off. At least it was dark, and no one else seemed to recognize that one of those girls was her sister—but she did. And Daria had some explaining to do.