"---ALL YOU OUTCASTS---"
ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY: In a bar on Dega Street, Daria learns her life, and fate, and future, werenít what they had seemed.
(This is also a parody of a specific classic science fiction story. If you havenít guessed what it is by now, scroll to the end and find out. But Iíd rather you read the story first.)
BAR, DEGA STREET, LAWNDALE, APRIL 14, 2004. 11:40 PM
She was in the last bar I looked in. But isnít it always that way? I came through the front door and looked around. It was a dingy little bar, with nothing to recommend it other than alcohol. Dimly lit, too, so you couldnít see how disgusting it was. Most of the light came from a TV hanging on one end of the bar. The bartender seemed more interested in the TV than me. I didnít care for his looks, but I didnít care what he looked like, as long as he kept his mouth shut.
The bartender and one customer were the only ones besides me in the place. I nodded to the bartender, and said, "Shot and a beer." I wasnít going to drink it, but I had to have some excuse to be there. It was a cold night for mid-April in Lawndale, and the cold carried into the bar. I tugged at my leather jacket, pulling the collar tight around my neck.
My target sat at the other end of the bar, slumped over a Bloody Mary. A young girl, plain, in her early twenties. Brown hair, a green jacket, heavy thick glasses and heavy black boots. I hadnít seen her wear anything else since the last family wedding she and I had both been compelled to attend..
Even through her glasses I could see her eyes were glazed over and she wasnít seeing anything. She looked worn down by the world, a little more than usual. She would be vulnerable to any bum who came along and tried to pick her up...but, I hoped, I could conclude my business, and get her out of there, long before then.
I sat on the stool next to her, and waited. I didnít wait long. The glazed eyes look faded a little, and her head lifted a little, until her eyes pointed in my direction. Her mouth opened a little, as if to say something. I waited, until she was ready.
Finally, she was. "Amy?"
"Thatís my name, at least right now." She didnít react. I said, "Hello, Daria. Howís my favorite niece?" The bartender put a shot and a beer down in front of me, but I did not pick either up. I had no intention of drinking them.
"Umm, uhh," she said, "all right. How have things been with you?"
"No better than can be expected. Playing the stock market, mostly." I had done well in the market. But I didnít want to talk about it. I needed to talk about her about something else. I picked up the shot glass, but did not drink.
Daria stared at my hand. "Uh...Aunt Amy, thereís a ring on your finger."
I looked at my hand, at the ring. I put it on tonight, to give to somebody later. "Doesnít mean anything, Daria. I got it from a close friend, thatís all." Nobody else had ever been closer, but I couldnít tell her that. Not yet. "At least it cuts down on being hit on."
"Wish I had thought of that," she said.
"Iíll give it to you later." I paused, and caught her eye and held it. "More to the point, how have things been with you?"
"Oh, fine, fine." She turned away from me, and looked at her drink, but made no move to pick it up.
"Címon, Daria, if itís bothering you, you should tell me." I smiled at her. "Us outcasts, we have to stick together."
That got no response at all. I wasnít even sure if she had heard me. She looked down into her drink. I licked my lips. The next question had to be put just right, or she would clam up on me, once and for all. "So...why do I find you in this dump, trying to crawl into a Bloody Mary?"
Daria looked unhappy. She was never one to cry in public, but this was as near to crying as I had ever seen her . Actually, I thought she would have looked adorable, if her face wasnít so haggard and careworn. I said, though I knew better, "Daria, it canít be that bad."
Still she didnít speak. "Look, Daria, Iíll bet you a bottle of this barís finest scotch that things are about to look better for you. If it doesnít, you can crawl inside it and I wonít say a word." I nodded to the bartender, who nodded back, and put a bottle on the counter before us. Cheap scotch, too.
"Oh, Aunt Amy, itís as bad as it can be!" Daria said, then suddenly remembered where she was and looked around. There were a couple of empty tables in the back. She looked at them, then at me, that "really hurt" expression Iíd seen on her, not often, too many times. For all her cynical shell, she was easily hurt. I nodded. We took our drinks back to one and sat down.
The bartender looked at us, mild curiosity playing across his horse face. I gave him a hard stare. He quickly turned back to the TV. I had to choose my words carefully.
"So," I said slowly, "you were saying?"
"My life has fallen apart," Daria said. "I donít know where to go or what to do." She blinked, then said, "Youíve talked to my parents."
"Not lately," I said. That was the literal truth.
"Well, they know I lost my scholarship. I think they know." She sighed. "I donít know what they told you. I donít know what they know."
"Well, I donít know, Daria. Tell me. Start from the beginning."
She took a deep breath, then began. "I got, um, really drunk on my twenty-first birthday. Really, really drunk. You know I donít drink or do drugs---"
"Like this?" I pointed to her half-empty Bloody Mary.
"No, I donít mean right now." She gave me as hard a stare as I had given the bartender. I worried that she might stop talking. But after a tense moment, she went on. "This is something else. We had a party, me, my roommates, the rest of the dorm...oh, I had so much to drink I passed out and I donít remember what went on."
"You lost your virginity?" As embarrassing a question as could be asked in Western Civilization.
"Um...yeah. Can you imagine me making out with anyone?" She bowed her head. "Damn. It happened. It had to have happened. A couple of months later I found out I was pregnant."
She nodded, then took another gulp from her drink. "I didnít even know who the father was." She leaned over a little, her drink on the table, her eyes on it. "I didnít tell anybody. I didnít tell my parents---I just didnít have the nerve. I just stopped going home. Told them I was busy."
"I see. So how did you lose your scholarship?"
"Getting pregnant disqualified me." She grimaced. "It must have been in the fine print, but I never noticed." She paused, reached for her drink, then took her hand away from it. "I could have had an abortion...had the abortion and stayed in school, but I decided to keep the baby. I donít know. It seemed the right thing to do."
I nodded, without speaking. She looked at me. "What? You donít approve?"
"My approval is not necessary. You know you have my support, for whatever you choose to do."
"Even though having this baby ruined my life?"
"Do you really think thatís so, Daria?" When she didnít answer, and didnít look at me, I said, "No, you donít have to answer that. Go on with your story.
"Well, the college was understanding about it. Donít ask me why. I mean, there I was, pregnant and not even knowing who the father was. I thought they might turn me out then and there. But they kept me on the books for a year, and I could stay in the dorm and keep studying. I was a year from graduating. I tried to get another scholarship. I still have some hope for---oh, forget it. I donít have any hope at all."
"I assume something else happened, Daria."
She nodded. "The baby was a month premature. I went into labor in the dorm. It was...painful." She stiffened a little. "You know, being a brain means you have a good idea of what happens when something like this happens. I was scared, more scared than Iíd ever been before. Lousy overactive imagination."
She seemed to relax a little after that. I looked closely at her. Was she almost smiling? She went on. "But my daughter was born, alive, pink and healthy. Nothing wrong with her. I was going to take her home. I mean, home, here, to Lawndale, to show Helen and Jake. I was determined Iíd do the right thing by her."
"And all this without telling your parents or friends."
"I figured Iíd tell them when my daughter and I got home. But I wasnít going to ask them for help. Iíd do it on my own. Besides, I, um, donít have any friends." She looked away.
"What about Jane? What happened to her?" It was a calculated risk, asking her that. I knew who Jane was, but I didnít think she had ever mentioned her to me. It might make Daria suspicious, and tip my hand.
Fortunately, for both of us, Daria was beyond noticing the minor details. She was back to looking severely depressed. "Jane and I...had a fight, over her boyfriend. We tried to patch things up, but it didnít really take. I donít think. We havenít spoken since I left for college. Almost three years, now."
"Thatís too bad," I said. "But itís off topic, Daria. Beyond the question. What are you doing, drinking in a bar in Dega Street? What happened after your daughter was born?"
She didnít answer at first. I waited patiently. Eventually, she said, "She was stolen. Right out of the hospital."
"You mean the baby was kidnapped?"
She nodded. "They said the woman looked exactly like me. Enough to be my sister, they said." She paused. "Iíve seen the security video. Theyíre right."
"How did it happen?"
"She checked out of the hospital with the baby as if she were me, but I was still asleep in the recovery room at the time." Daria looked at me. The effects of alcohol were starting to hit her. "You must know this. It was in the papers."
"I read something to that effect."
Daria turned away from me again. "They kept my name out of it, Iíll give them that. They couldnít find her, she dropped off the face of the earth, and she left nothing for them to follow. My daughter was gone." She looked so damned sad I wanted to comfort her right then and there, and to hell with the assignment.
But I kept my focus. "So. How does that lead to here?"
"Well, the university finally gave up and kicked me out. So here I sit, trying to nerve myself to break it to my parents that my life has been ruined."
"And with a drink," I said, looking at her nearly empty Bloody Mary. "Or two. Or six. You know alcoholís not the answer, Daria,"
She looked at the glass. "I know, but I havenít got many options left."
"How many have you had?"
"Umm...two or three?"
I leaned back, thinking. Daria was in a bad way. She might bounce back. Or she might sink further in. Even suicide was possible.
It was time to make my move.
But itís never as neat as that. Just then, the volume on the bar TV kicked up. An announcerís voice said, "His father married his stepdaughter. But, look out! Here comes a bouncing baby boy! ĎIím My Own Grandpa,í next on Sick Sad World!"
I scowled at the bartender, who hastily hit the mute button. I liked that episode, when I first saw it, a long time ago. Now I hated it. I turned back to Daria and said, "Look, there is a way."
"What if I told you that you could see your daughter again, and see that she was raised in the best home possible?"
"I donít understand."
"Youíre going to have to trust me on this, Daria. I know, er, things that you donít know." I paused, then leaned forward again. "For instance, your daughterís name wasnít in the papers and you never told your parents a thing about her. Itís Melody Jane, right?"
Daria blinked, but didnít speak. She had always been hard to read through those glasses.
"She weighed seven pounds, two ounces and was born at eleven thirty-eight PM on the twenty-third of February."
Daria blinked again. A look of red-faced shock began to surface.
"And nothing of this was released to the public, and you havenít talked, have you?"
"Youíve talked to the hospital."
I shook my head. "No. Also, your drunken party was as the Family Inn in Middleton. Am I right, or what?"
Now she looked shocked. I said, "Like I told you, youíve got to trust me. Let it be the bond between outcasts, if nothing else. Now, do you want to see your daughter again?"
She looked at me, her mouth a little open. Then she nodded, with more enthusiasm than I could ever remember her showing.
I stood up and held out my hand. "Take my hand, Daria."
She stood up---none too steadily---and gently took my hand. I led her into the womenís room of the bar. It was a filthy place, even worse than the bar outside. Almost as bad as the one at the Zen. I took a quick look, to see if anyone was in either of the two stalls. No, the place was deserted.
The outside door had a simple bolt on it. I slid it shut. It wouldnít keep anyone out, if they really wanted to get in. But I wasnít counting on having to keep it locked very long.
Daria looked at me, confused, a lost-puppy-dog expression on her face. "Now, Daria, youíll just have to trust me." I knew I had to make this quick.
I pulled her into my arms in a bear hug. Before she could react, I mentally visualized the control panel of the Transport Implant, just as I was taught to at the Academy. The destination was set. There was a single switch to flip, that would send us on. I mentally flipped that switch.
ROOM 113, FAMILY INN, MIDDLETON, FEBRUARY 24th, 2002, 8:00 PM
It takes longer to describe than to do. I started to let Daria go, then held on to her as the shock of what had happened hit her. "Itís all right, Daria. Youíre in a room at the Family Inn in Middleton. You know it. Maybe too well." I held onto her arm, but she didnít sag. "Itís convenient for here and now."
"Umm...but we were in a bar. In Lawndale."
"Thereís no time for explanations, Daria. Do you want to see your daughter again?"
"Uh..." She shook her head, as if to clear it, then nodded.
"Then come with me."
I led her down to my car---a rental four-seater, not my usual car. I wanted no links back to me this time. I had rented it earlier, and put a baby seat between the driver and passenger sides. Daria looked at it. By now she was a little numb from it all, and I had to give her a little guidance by touch. I put her in the passenger seat.
I watched her carefully as I drove off. The effects of alcohol were starting to kick in. Like she said, she wasnít a regular drinker, and only a few Bloody Marys would wipe her out. But she had to be reasonably sober to pull this off.
I found a dark spot in the parking lot of Middleton Methodist Hospital. Then I turned to Daria and said, "Now itís your turn. Just go into the hospital, pick up your daughter, and check yourselves out. Itíll be easy."
"Iíll be right here if anything goes wrong." I smiled at her. "But nothing will happen. Itís going to be all right. I know. Go on, Daria."
She hesitated only a moment more, then got out of the car. I smiled as I watched her walk towards the bright lights of the hospital entrance. Once she was out of sight I grabbed a thick paperback from the glove compartment and settled down to a good read.
It was over an hour before she reappeared, but I was ready when she came back to the car. Some of the drunk had worn off her, but this was replaced by a weary-but-happy expression. Daria was never one to give her feelings away by her face, but this was an expression I had never expected to see on her.
She carried her baby carefully in the crook of her arm. I looked at Melody Jane and smiled. She looked at us, silently and solemnly. She had the same expression I had seen so many times on her mother, and in the mirror when I looked into it.
I helped her put the baby in the car seat, and, then, drove off. It was back to the Family Inn for all three of us. We got the baby inside without any trouble. By now Daria was showing signs of fatigue, and alcohol, clearly, and I gently put her down on the bed, the baby in her arms. Soon they were both asleep.
Once I was sure they wouldnít wake up, I lay down next to them, put my arms around Daria, with the baby between us. Then I visualized the switch in my mind, then flipped it.
ROOM 27, THE DUTCHMAN INN, LAWNDALE, FEBRUARY 26, 1982 8:00 PM.
We landed gently on the bed. I had enough practice in leaping from time to time, and point to point, to avoid any hard arrivals. Daria was done in. I was good for a long time, yet. I got her jacket and boots off and left her on the bed.
I gave us enough time for Daria to get a good nightís sleep. She would need it. I had laid in a supply of baby stuff for her after renting this room. I put the baby in the crib, then sat up in a hard chair all night and watched both of them. Daria and the baby slept soundly, all the way to mid-morning.
She awoke, and groaned. That set off a short gasp from the baby. Daria looked over, then leapt up, startled. She looked around, everything a blur to her. I had put her glasses on the nightstand. Iíd forgotten how little she could see without them. When she looked at me, she said, "Um, Aunt Amy?"
"Relax, Daria," I said. "Youíre in the Dutchman Inn, in Lawndale. You know, the Dutchman Inn. The place with the giant clog?"
"Umm." Her hangover started to kick in and she put a hand to her head. "Ow. I remember. My baby!"
"Sheís sleeping peacefully," I said. We both looked towards the crib. Sure enough, she was.
"Uh...Aunt Amy, what happened?" She slumped, sitting down on the bedís edge.
I stood up. "Youíre a bright girl, Daria. Youíll figure it out. Just remember that today is the twenty-seventh of February, 1982."
She was still rubbing the side of her head. "Um, you said, uh, 1982."
"That I did, Daria, that I did." I stood up. "I canít spend any more time with you now. Youíll figure out whatís what soon enough. And, I might add, what you have to do. Youíll find a change of clothes and a roll of cash in the suitcase. Thereís also ID and a credit card made out for you as ĎDaria Smith.í You canít use your own name or cards or money, not in 1982. Leave your own ID and money right here. This room is paid up until the end of August, so you can use this as a base of operations. Youíll have plenty of time to do what you have to do." I made a mental note to have a cleanup crew come in and get everything out, after Daria and I were gone.
I walked over to her, and took off my leather jacket. I draped it over her shoulders. "Here. Wear this. Itís cold outside. Thereís a stack of newspapers over on the desk, if you need to catch up on current events. Oh, and your glasses are on the nightstand." I grabbed her green jacket and slung it over my arm.
Daria hastily reached for her glasses and put them on. I was already walking towards the door. She rolled over and stood up, a little shaky but still standing. "Aunt Amy, wait---"
Just then Melody Jane let out a wail. Daria hesitated, then went to her. I smiled. I couldnít have planned for that. I was out the door and gone.
I slipped Dariaís jacket on. It fit, though it didnít go with the rest of my outfit. I didnít care. Iím no Fashion Club fiend like Quinn. And I only walked a short way down the hall to another room. Once inside, I did the old flip-the-mental-switch routine.
BACK ALLEY, NEAR DEGA STREET, LAWNDALE, APRIL 26, 1982. 11:30 PM.
I knew just how long it would take Daria to accomplish what she had to do. She should be done by now, and if my calculations were right---
I walked out of the alley, and, sure enough, there she was. She was still wearing my leather jacket and her own heavy boots. She looked depressed. But she also looked sober. "Hello, Daria," I said.
She flinched, then said, "Oh. Aunt Amy. Hi. Youíre wearing my jacket."
"Youíll get it back. Youíve done it?"
"I left her with Jake and Helen. Just like you planned." She looked at me, with more than a little anger showing.
"No, Daria," I said firmly. "Just like you planned. You know who you are. You know who Melody Jane is." I smiled. "And with a little more thought, you might realize who I really am."
Her anger melted. "I suspected. But I donít understand at all."
"Neither did I, at first. But you will, Daria, you will."
She sighed. "You know, leaving my daughter with Jake and Helen was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But they could give her a life I couldnít. I wanted that for her, strange as it sounds." Here, a little of the old "Mona Lisa" of her face came back. "Even though I remember it as hell, it was a good life, after all."
"Me, too, Daria. Me, too."
She looked at me, then said, "Now what?"
"Itís a little complex." I paused, then said, "You think I was doing this just to mess with your mind? Iím recruiting you, Daria. We need outcasts like you and me in the Service. Time travel is a complex thing and somebody has to police it."
"You and me, Amy?" Her expression was bland, except for a raised eyebrow.
"I get it, Daria. So do you. But we donít need to talk about it. If we ever do."
She nodded, but did not speak. I added, "That makes it sound like a tough job. It is, but youíll find itís more fun than you can possibly imagine right now." I paused. "Time cop. Itís the perfect job for you."
"For you and me both, Aunt Amy." She nodded again---and I was rewarded with another "Mona Lisa" smile. After a while, she said, "I repeat, now what?"
I took a quick look around. No one was in sight, and this wasnít the era for cameras on every street corner. I held out my arms, open wide. "Come to me, Daria."
RECRUIT STATION, DENVER, COLORADO, MAY 31ST, 2050. 11:30 PM.
Thereís little more to tell. I brought her in at night, and dumped her on the night watchman. He was an old acquaintance and that cut down on the explanations. He put her in a room while I put her name on the orientation roster. I also arranged to have all her clothes and her old glasses forwarded to me once she started training. For now, I put them aside.
I did take my leather jacket back. While Daria took a long, relaxing bath, I plugged the secret recorder inside the jacket into the base computer. I didnít have time to run the entire two months, so I had it spit out a summary.
It went as I remembered. Daria had decided to find Jake and Helen, hit it off with them, and they had agreed to adopt her daughter and raise her as their own. They told no one of this arrangement, not even their closest relatives. That was a bald summary, but accurate. The whole thing was probably extra-legal, but, even in 1982, Helen was a crackerjack lawyer...and there was nobody to dispute it.
But the Morgendorffers decided to rename Melody Jane "Daria," after their friend, her mother, all on their own. Such is fate.
I waited until Daria was asleep, deep asleep, then slipped my ring off my finger and onto hers. The Service doesnít mind an occasional paradox, as long as you keep it in the family. Then I put my jacket back on---after all, it would still be cold---and made the leap to 2004.
BAR, DEGA STREET, LAWNDALE, APRIL 14TH, 2004. 11:50 PM.
Now my only worry was that someone would wonder why two people went into the womenís room, and only one came out. I unlocked the door and walked back into the bar, to find a few more people in the bar. Our drinks had been picked up. So had the bottle of scotch.
I spoke to the bartender. "That girl I was talking to. Seen her before?"
"No, no, sheís never been in before. You know her?"
"A nodding acquaintance."
"She didnít settle her tab."
"Iíll cover it. And mine." I reached into my pocket and took out my gold card.
He took it from me, looked at it, and read, "Daria Morgendorffer?"
"Thatís my name, at least right now."
He nodded and slid it through the card slot, then handed it back. Then he put the bottle of scotch back in front of me. I took the cheap, cruddy stuff---I had won it, as near as I could tell---nodded at him, and cleared out.
Now I could go back to my suite at Le Grand Hotel. I was done. My vacation from the Service started this instant. I had to pry off the makeup and change my face back to my own. One of the benefits of the Service was access to future anti-agathic therapies. A girl could be any age she wanted. Right now, my age and appearance were something I put on.
I expected to have a busy day tomorrow, explaining to Helen and Jake how I lost my scholarship but made several million playing the stock market---easy when you have tomorrowís quotes today.
After that, Iíd find Jane and make up with her, somehow, some way. Iíd let that go too long. I wondered if the subjective-time I had been through would make a difference. Given everything, it seemed harder to make up with Jane than to recruit Daria. But Iíd been through a lot, and I needed a normal life---normal to me---to fall back on, if only for a while.
I had put in a lot of hard work the last twenty-five or so subjective years, and I was due for some time off. Besides, after spending forty chronological years shoving myself into the Barksdale family as an adopted sister, and relating to Helen and Jake as sister and brother-in-law, it would be good to see them as parents again. Once, they had even been my friends.
At least I hoped it would be easy. Looking back on it, it hadnít been that bad.
And if they did know about the baby, well, I knew I was adopted. I could trade one for the other.
This segment had gone well. I had successfully recruited Daria. And she had given her daughter to the Morgendorffers to raise. Now the only thing left to do was arranging that drunken orgy and seeing that Daria got pregnant. I could take care of that when I got back. I needed more agents. But that was for later.
Then my future was free. For now, I could relax, and be happy.
As I walked away from Dega Street, I rubbed my bare finger, where the ring had been. I had to admit to myself, I wasnít happy at all. I liked being Aunt Amy to Daria. Now it was gone. It all came down to one thing.
There was only me---Daria---and no one else.
All you outcasts---where are you?
God, I miss you already.
DISCLAIMER: "Daria" and the characters and settings from it are the property of MTV Networks / Viacom International. The "Sick Sad World" episode referred to is a parody adaptation of a portion of The Daria Diaries by Anne D. Bernstein, copyright © 1998 by MTV Networks.
"---All You Zombies---" by Robert A. Heinlein is copyright © 1959 by Mercury Press, © 1981 Robert A Heinlein; first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1959.
This parody of both "Daria" and "---All You Zombies---" is copyright © 2000 by Robert Nowall. It is not intended to profit the author in any way, and may not be distributed without permission of the author. (That means please donít post or circulate this without getting in touch with me first.) For the time being, Robert Nowall can be reached at: RobtNowall@aol.com
"Iím My Own Grandpaw", referred to here, in The Daria Diaries, and in "---All You Zombies---", is a song popular in the 1940s and 1950s, and is credited to Jaffee / Latham. I have no information beyond this at this time. I note that both works parodied here, use this work as a plot element, without posted notice. Whoís violating what copyright laws?
Writing this parody was a liberating experience. I got to write science fiction, which has always been my main output. I couldnít have gotten away with using two characters from a TV show in an original work of science fiction. I also couldnít have used the plot I did, because Heinlein already had. For all that it reared up unexpectedly out of my subconscious with no warning whatsoever, Iím happy to have written it.
Written 8/13/00 to 8/17/00