Daria sat back in her chair at the art room, and watched Jane paint furiously. She let out a loud yawn, and then caught herself. Jane glanced over at her and frowned.
“That’s contagious, you know.”
“That’s medically unproven.”
Jane raised an eyebrow. “You know, if you’re bored, you can go. I didn’t say you had to come with me today.”
“Good idea. I have so much else to do on a Saturday.”
“Because you’re so well-adjusted, obviously.”
Daria frowned. “Abuse?”
Jane grinned. “Isn’t our relationship based on that?”
Daria sighed. “That and our disturbing co-dependency. Good thing we’re so mentally stable.”
Jane winked and went back to painting. Ms. Defoe came in from another room, and walked over to look at the painting.
“Very good!” she said encouragingly. “Jane, I’m so glad you agreed to help me on this school project. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t.”
“Aw shucks,” said Jane with false modesty. “You had people lining up around the block to help you.”
Daria glanced up at the empty art room. It was so empty she half-expected to see a tumbleweed rolling past. She glanced over to see Jane and Ms Defoe doing the same. There was an awkward silence.
“Well then,” said Ms. Defoe. “I have to be going. I’m selling some of my macrame plant holders at a flea market today. Would you like to buy one?” She held up the sorriest-looking plant holder Daria had ever seen. From the looks of it, plants would rather die than be put in it. If plant holders played sports, it would always be the last one picked for a team.
Daria stared at it for a few seconds. Finally, the guilt got to her. “How much?”
Ms. Defoe stared at her. “Um, I don’t know. No-one’s ever wanted to buy one before.”
There was another awkward silence. She pushed the holder into Daria’s hands.
“Here. It’s a, um, present for helping Jane with the project.”
“Yes,” said Jane. “Sitting in the corner making snarky comments is invaluable to my art.”
Ms. Defoe smiled weakly, and then left, carrying her bag of plant holders.
Daria stared at her plant holder for a short while, and set it down. “Weird.”
“Nice, though,” said Jane.
“Yes. Nice, but weird.” Daria frowned. “What the hell am I going to do with a plant holder?”
“Funny, Lane. I don’t have any plants. I have no desire for plants. And if I did, I wouldn’t put them in this. If plant holders had families, this would be the weird cousin plant holder that drinks out of the toilet and raises chipmunks, and who you pretend not to know if he sees you in the street.”
“Knock it off,” said Jane. “I bet that plant holder will come in useful before the end of the day.”
“That sort of ironic thing does seem to happen to us an awful lot.”
Jane grinned, and kept painting. “I shouldn’t be too much longer, by the way.”
“Take your time,” said Daria. “Quinnie O’s in detention today, and I’ve been meaning to peek in and revel in her misery.”
“What are distant cousins for, anyway?”
Daria smirked, and sat back in her chair again. Suddenly, she frowned and rubbed her head. Looking over at Jane, she saw that she was doing the same.
“You too?” said Jane.
“Headache?” asked Daria.
Jane nodded. Daria frowned. It seemed to have passed now, but for a second there, she had gotten a sudden sharp headache. Daria shrugged. It wasn’t like she didn’t have a lot of things that could cause headaches in her life.
Quinn stared at the clock and wondered why stupid time had to be so slow. She kept glancing at that clock, and the hands never seemed to move. Maybe it was broken. Yes! Maybe it was broken, and it was already time to go.
A quick glance at her watch proved that promising theory wrong. Quinn sighed. Detention was so boring. She didn’t even deserve to be here. All because Mr. DeMartino didn’t understand the importance of having an emergency Fashion Club meeting in the middle of history class. He needed to sort out his priorities.
Well, truth be told, Quinn hadn’t really understood the importance of the meeting, either. And she’d been kind of enjoying the lesson, although she wouldn’t admit it to anyone. But Sandi had been really insistent, and Sandi got that way sometimes.
She glanced back at the rest of the Fashion Club. They were all looking equally bored. Well, Sandi was looking annoyed and bored, Stacy was looking terrified and bored, and Tiffany was looking out there and bored. It might take her until next week to figure out they were in detention.
Quinn looked back up to the front of the classroom. One thing did seem a little odd. Normally, Mr. O’Neill was in charge of this, but today Ms. Li was doing it.
Quinn thought that was kind of strange. Did the principal usually do detentions? And why was she constantly fiddling with those weird dials and buttons on the desk? Quinn didn’t know. She frowned a little, as a quick pain passed through her head. She rubbed her temple, wondering where that had come from. It seemed to have passed now, though.
Brittany looked round at the rest of the squad, and pointed at the diagrams in front of her.
“I know we talked about this, but I think our routine needs a little work on it before the game...”
“Yeah! Go get them!” The voice came from the bleachers behind them. Brittany tried to ignore it.
“I just don’t see what the problem is, Brittany,” said Angie. “I mean, we talked about this before...”
“Work it!” More of the loud voice.
The cheerleaders looked at each other, and then at Brittany.
“Brittany,” said Nicki. “Why is your idiot boyfriend sitting on the bleachers behind us yelling every minute?”
“You go, girls!” screamed Kevin from the bleachers.
Brittany grinned and laughed nervously. “It’s just his way of encouraging me!”
“He doesn’t normally do this,” said Angie, in a vexed tone. “Why today?”
“I think he’s bored,” said Brittany thoughtfully.
“Well, we’re not bored,” said Nicki. “We’re upset. I think we should call off today’s meeting until we can get together without Kevin.”
“But, guys!” protested Brittany.
“I don’t know why you stay with him, anyway,” muttered Angie.
Brittany told them exactly why she stayed with him.
“Really?” said Nicki, wide-eyed. “He doesn’t look it.”
“Come on,” said Angie. “We’ll see you later, Brittany.”
The other cheerleaders picked up their stuff and, one by one, left Brittany standing in the pitch. She scowled in anger, and turned round to the bleachers. She then proceeded to give Kevin all sorts of abusive gestures, not caring about the sudden headache she had gotten.
Up on the bleachers, Kevin beamed and waved at her.
“She’s waving, man!”
Jeffy, who was sitting beside him, peered down at her. “I don’t think she is. It looks a little more angry. Actually, it looks a lot like she‘s giving you the finger.”
“No way, man! I know Britt. She’s always glad to have me here!”
Jeffy nodded uncertainly. “Why did you ask me to come here, anyway?”
“Well, I needed someone to talk to, and Mack Daddy was busy.”
Jeffy frowned. “Busy? With what?”
Kevin shrugged. “He didn’t say. Why?”
Jeffy glanced over at the swimming facility. “I could have sworn I saw him going over there a few minutes ago.”
Kevin shook his head. “No way. He said he’d be out of town all day.”
“Oh okay.” Jeffy paused. “My head hurts.”
“Mine too,” said Kevin. “That always happens when I try to think.”
“But I wasn’t thinking.”
“Me neither,” said Kevin thoughtfully. He shrugged. “Where are Joey and Jamie?”
Jeffy smiled. “I told them Quinn had gone to France to become the new international supermodel. They’re trying to find ways to get there to date her.”
“Oh. When did that happen?”
“That’s the cunning part. She isn’t there!”
Kevin blinked. “Then why did you tell them that she was?”
“It was a trick! Quinn’s right here, in detention. Once she learns that the other two are out of the country, she’ll fall into my arms!”
“Hmmm.” Kevin thought about that. It seemed like a good plan. “Won’t they be upset if they do get to France and find out she isn’t there?”
“Who cares! I’ll have Quinn all for myself!” Jeffy beamed.
Kevin looked down at the pitch. Brittany was stomping off in other direction. He frowned.
“Hey, Britt! Where are you going?”
Brittany turned and yelled something he couldn’t quite make out. He turned to Jeffy.
“It sounded like “Fock uff, you prack”,” said Jeffy.
Kevin scratched his chin. “I wonder what it means? Come on.”
They got down off the bleachers and walked after her.
Mack peered round the side of the swimming facility. “I think the coast is clear.”
Jodie peered round beside him. “I could have sworn that Jeffy saw you on the pitch.”
“Ignore Jeffy. He’s too obsessed with Quinn to notice anything.”
Jodie sighed. “If you say so. It would just be better if no-one saw us, you know?”
“I know.” Mack frowned. “I just wish there was an easier way to get here than across the pitch.” He thought about it. “Well, there’s the corridors, but there’s more people there.”
“Isn’t the danger part of why we’re doing this?”
Mack grinned. “Oh yes.”
Jodie smiled at him. “Just wait until we get inside. Then you’ll really be grinning.”
Mack winked and tried the door. It was open. He grinned and held the door open for Jodie, who quickly went inside. He followed, and shut the door behind him.
Jodie stood in front of the swimming pool, and turned to face him. She had a large grin on her face. “You know, I bet everyone would be surprised as hell if they knew we were doing this.”
“Then they’d bust us so badly.” Mack glanced around. “I’m sure this isn’t exactly legal.”
“Isn’t that part of the fun? Doing exciting things in dangerous places?”
“You’re definitely not how most people think you are, you know.”
Jodie adopted a sultry pose. “I’m sick of having to be the little Miss Perfect all the time. When I’m with you, I can be as bad as I want to be.”
Mack cocked his head to the side. “And how bad do you want to be?”
Jodie seductively removed all of all her clothes. “Pretty damn bad.”
Mack smiled, and began pulling off his. “You’re evil.”
“So are you.” Jodie smiled. “And we both love it.” Jodie paused. “This wasn’t our original plan for today, was it?”
Mack thought about it. “I don’t think so, actually. We were...” He struggled to remember. “We were coming into school, and then we both had that...”
“Headache,” Jodie finished. “And then we decided this would be such a better idea...”
“Hmm,” said Mack thoughtfully. “That seem odd to you?”
Jodie shrugged. “Who cares?”
Jodie smiled, then turned and jumped into the pool. Her head came up from under the water, and she beckoned to Mack. “Why don’t you come in...Mack Daddy.”
Mack grimaced. “Ruined the mood there a bit.”
“Oh.” Jodie shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Just thought of Kevin there. That doesn’t help.”
“Oh. Does this?” Jodie hunched herself out of the water slightly, giving him an excellent view of her body.
“Oh yes.” Mack finished pulling off his clothes, and jumped into the water beside her. They embraced, and began kissing passionately. Mack broke off. “Does anyone else know you’re this kinky?”
“Only you,” she said, nuzzling his neck.
Mack stopped and looked at Jodie. “Why the hell are we talking so much?”
“I don’t know.” Jodie wrapped her arms around his neck. “Shut up and kiss me.”
Mack was about to do so, when he heard the door to the pool room open. He looked at Jodie in alarm, and saw she was doing the same. “I’m a dead man,” he said unhappily.
“Oh God,” said Jodie. “There goes Harvard.”
“You didn’t want to go to Harvard.”
“It would have been nice to have the option. I can see the headlines now. “Miss Perfect in steamy pool tryst with football captain”. We‘re screwed.”
Mack swallowed nervously. “Your Dad’s going to kill me.” He thought of something. “How long can you hold your breath?”
“Pretty long. Why? Oh!” Jodie grinned in understanding, and they both disappeared underwater.
From the bottom of the pool, Mack could make out some shadowy figures making their way across the poolside. Mack prayed they wouldn’t think to look into the pool.
Luckily, they didn’t, and Mack could see them walking into the school corridors. He and Jodie surfaced and looked at each other.
“That was weird,” said Mack. “Who were those guys?”
“Beats me,” said Jodie, looking after them and scratching her head. “We should follow them. Make sure they’re supposed to be here. If they were, wouldn’t they come in the front door.”
“Damn,” said Mack. “You’ve gone all Angela Lansbury again.”
“Angela Lansbury doesn’t have as nice an ass as I do.”
“Come on,” said Jodie, climbing out of the pool, and starting to get dressed.
“Yes, now.” Jodie sighed. “I think the mood’s gone anyway. I keep getting this feeling of getting caught now. Not the good kind, anyway.”
“Good point.” Mack got out of the pool as well. He began pulling on his clothes.
Jodie stopped and frowned. “My panties are gone! Where the hell did I put them?”
“Maybe one of those guys...”
Jodie glanced towards the door and threw her hands up in exasperation. “Now that’s just wrong.”
“They weren’t one of the pairs that have your name printed on them, were they?”
Jodie shot Mack a look. “I thought we weren’t going to mention that again.”
“Sorry.” Mack finished pulling on the rest of his clothes. “Let’s go.”
In the art room, Jane was slapping some paint onto the canvas and trying to make art, while Daria was absentmindedly flicking through an art magazine. Jane frowned, and slapped her brush against the picture.
Daria glanced up. “What’s wrong?”
“This is coming out all wrong.”
“As the man said to the sex therapist.” Daria walked over to her. “Looks okay to me.”
“I’m not happy with it.” Jane sighed. “Maybe I should take a break. How about lunch?”
“Lunch sounds good,” admitted Daria. “How about Taco Hell?”
“You mean Taco Bell,” corrected Jane.
Daria shook her head. “No, no. This is that new place. It’s aiming to capitalize on two key demographics - people who like Mexican food, and Satanists.”
“Really?” said Jane incredulously. “Big success?”
“Strangely enough, no.” Daria shrugged. “At least it wasn’t as bad as MacDougal’s.”
“That was that branch of MacDonald’s trying to muscle in on the lucrative Scottish immigrant market?”
Daria nodded. “But it was shut down by the UN for being stupid and grossly offensive.”
“Pity. I thought it had potential. Especially the MacHaggis.” Jane thought for a moment. “Why don’t we just have pizza? That’s what we do every other weekend. And every day too, come to think of it.”
“Plus I have Lasagna on the days when I’m not having pizza. I’m starting to think my life is just one big advertisement for Italian food.” She shrugged. “But pizza sounds good. Let’s go.”
As they were preparing to leave, they noticed a group of large, black-clad people trudging past the door. Daria frowned. “That doesn’t seem normal.”
Jane walked over beside her. “Maybe it’s that bunch of secret police that Li ordered.”
Daria shook her head. “They don’t get here until Wednesday.” She glanced out of the door window. “We should follow them.”
Daria shrugged. “Might be interesting.”
“You really are bored, aren’t you?”
A shrug. “Come on.”
Jodie and Mack opened the door into the school corridor, and peeked around the corner. “No-one there?” whispered Jodie.
Mack nodded, and the made their way into the school.
The silence was rudely interrupted by a familiar squeak. “You jerk!”
Mack and Jodie turned around to see Brittany walking in through the pool entrance.
“He’s such a jerk!” Brittany walked over to them. “He always keeps ruining everything I do!”
Mack and Jodie turned to each other. “Should I even ask?” said Mack.
Jodie shrugged and turned to her. “What’s Kevin done this time?”
“He ruined my cheerleading practice!”
“If he does that one more...” Brittany stopped and looked at them both. “Why are you both wet?”
They exchanged a look. “It was raining,” said Jodie lamely.
“Was it?” Brittany twirled a pigtail. “I don’t remember it raining.”
“Oh yes,” said Mack. “Big shower. Just a few minutes ago.”
Brittany thought for a few moments. “Okay!”
Then Kevin and Jeffy burst in after her. “Babe!” said Kevin. “Why did you walk away?”
“Because I’m mad at you!” said Brittany and crossed her arms in anger, turning away from him.
“Babe,” said Kevin contritely. “She meant nothing to me.”
Brittany turned around, a confused look on her face. “Who didn’t?”
There was an awkward silence. Finally Kevin looked at Jodie and Mack, trying to change the subject. “Hey, why are you wet?”
They glanced at each other.
Kevin looked at them, then at the pool entrance, then back to them. “Mack Daddy!” He punched Mack in the shoulder. “Dude! Getting yourself some, were...”
“Kevin,” said Mack firmly. “It was raining.”
Kevin thought about that. “Oh, okay.”
Jeffy frowned. “No, it...”
“Shut up, Jeffy,” said Mack firmly.
“Honestly, Kevin,” said Jodie. “Your mind’s in the gutter all the time.”
Suddenly Mack remembered about the black-clad people he had seen earlier. “Guys, come on. We have to follow them.”
“What?” Kevin looked lost.
Mack and Jodie briefly filled in everyone about the mysterious black-clad figures they had seen, omitting, of course, the details of how they came to be in the pool at the time.
“I bet they’re up to no good,” said Kevin forcefully. “We’ll have to kick their asses all over this school.” He punched Jeffy on the back. “You with me, man?”
Jeffy looked nervous. “Not really, no.”
Brittany beamed, all of Kevin’s transgressions forgiven. “Oh, Kevvy, you’re so brave.”
“Give me strength,” muttered Kevin.
“Kevin,” said Jodie evenly. “We’re just going to investigate a bit. I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation for all this. Okay?”
Kevin looked disappointed. “Okay.”
Jodie nodded, and the group set off after them.
Daria and Jane peeked round a corner. They could see the gang making their way towards the detention room. Daria frowned.
“I wonder what they want?”
“Maybe they’ve come to kill Li.”
Daria shook her head. “Nah, we’d never get that lucky. Keep your voice down. I want to see what this is all about.”
They followed them at a distance, trying to keep out of sight.
In the detention room, Quinn kept glancing at the clock. It still didn’t seem to want to move very fast. This was the most boring Saturday she had ever had. Plus Cashman’s was almost definitely having a morning sale. That would be the crowning irony.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash, and the door fell open. Literally. It fell onto the floor, and a small group of black-clad men rushed inside. They were holding guns. There was a collective gasp in the room.
“Nobody move!” shouted the leader.
“Nobody has,” said Tiffany, sounding a little confused.
“I mean, nobody move from this point on!”
“Even you?” said Tiffany. “Why not?”
“Shut up, Tiffany!” hissed Sandi.
Li stood up. “What is the meaning of this!”
“I said nobody should move,” protested the leader.
“Oh, sorry.” Li sat down. “What is the...” She paused. “Can I at least move my head to look at you? I have this back condition, you see. It caused me to abandon my chosen career as a dancer...”
“Um,” said the leader uncertainly. “I guess.”
Li turned to face him. “What is the meaning of this!? I’m conducting a very serious experiment here, and I...”
“What type of experiment?” asked Quinn, frowning.
“I bought this mind control kit for the school,” said Li, holding up the panel she’d been playing with. “You!” She pointed at Stacy. “Do you feel a sudden need to conform?”
“Yes!” Stacy thought about it. “Well, not any more than usual, I mean.”
“Damn it,” muttered Li.
“Hey,” said the leader. “Remember me? I’m taking you guys hostage!”
Another collective gasp from the class.
“Why?” exclaimed Li.
“Because,” he said dramatically, and began to remove his mask. It got stuck. “Ah crap.” He started struggling with it. “Because of what you did to me...” He still couldn’t seem to get his mask off. “Me, that is...” He handed his gun to one of the others. “I am...” The mask was securely lodged in place. “Shit.”
Li looked at him. “Can you just tell us who you are?”
“No,” he said, struggling with his mask. “It’s more dramatic if I do it this way.”
“I think the drama has, like, passed,” muttered Sandi.
He finally succeeded in pulling his mask off.
It was Tommy Sherman. A gasp arose from the room again.
“I’m Tommy Sherman,” he said unnecessarily.
Stacy pointed at him. “But you’re...you’re...”
“No,” said Stacy, a little confused. “You were that guy who tried to kill Ms. Barch.”
“No,” said Tommy. “I’d remember that. I was dead.”
“Oh,” said Stacy, shrugging. “I must have been thinking of someone else.”
Outside the room, Daria and Jane watched from a little down the hall in shock.
“It’s Tommy Sherman,” said Jane.
“Yes, Jane. I can hear.”
“But he was dead!”
“Yes, Jane, I was there.”
“That goalpost fell on him!”
“Jane, I was there. Leave off on the exposition, okay?”
“Sorry.” Jane glanced down the corridor. “What are we going to do?”
“Burst in, and use our kung-fu skills to subdue them.”
Jane stared at her. “What?”
“Only joking.” Daria jerked her thumb down the hall. “Let’s go call the cops.”
They walked down the corridor quickly. As they disappeared round a corner, Mack and company appeared round another. Mack stared in disbelief at the scene in front of them.
Jodie appeared round the corner as well. She turned to look at Mack. “What are we going to do?”
Mack weighed up his options. “Okay. Kevin and Jeffy go for a frontal assault. You and I will go in behind them, and fee the hostages. We should be able to pull this...”
As he was talking, Kevin rounded the corner, took one look at the scene, and started to charge into the room. Mack tried to stop him - to no avail. He piled forward into the room, and stood with his hands on his hips.
“Man, you guys are in some shit now! I’m going to splatter your asses all over this school!”
Then he saw Tommy Sherman, and stood, slack-jawed in astonishment. The goons raised their guns.
Mack could see this from where was standing, and piled forward without a second thought. He grabbed Kevin and pulled him round the corner, wondering idly why the thugs hadn’t fired when they had the chance. He turned to see Brittany and Jodie running towards him. He raised his arm to tell them to stay back.
Jodie got the hint, Brittany didn’t. She ran forward, and Jodie had to run after her. They reached the door of the room, right beside Kevin and Mack.
In the room, Stacy, seeing a chance, stood up and screamed, “Quinn, Tiffany, let’s get out of here!”
Tiffany, moving unusually fast, got up. She and Stacy barreled out of the room as fast as they could, knocking into Mack and Kevin as they did so. The four of them went sprawling.
Tommy and his boys walked out of the room, and pointed their guns at Brittany and Jodie. They surrendered. Mack and the others on the ground got to their feet, and Mack saw the guns coming round to bear on them.
He turned to the others. “Run.”
“What?” Kevin looked at him.
“Run!” Mack started off down the corridor, making sure that the others were right in front of him. He didn’t want to lose anyone else. Jeffy, who had been watching the whole thing from the other end of the corridor, joined them. Mack thought about Jodie and Brittany and cursed himself. They were captured now. He had to find some way of getting them out. He glanced behind himself, and saw that there were still two goons following them.
He gritted his teeth, and picked up the pace. They had to find some way of losing them.
Quinn, who had remained in her seat the entire time, looked round at the rest of the room. Sandi was sitting in her seat with an astonished expression on her face. Brittany and Jodie were being led into the room at gunpoint, and Ms. Li was still at her desk with a very guilty expression on her face. She was the only one who didn’t look very surprised at what had happened. Somehow, that didn’t surprise Quinn.
Jodie and Brittany took a seat. Tommy strutted in front of them. “If anyone else tries something like that, I’ll shoot them, okay?” He turned to some of the others. “Make sure the exits are blocked. Don’t let anyone out or in.” They nodded, and left. One of them remained with him.
Quinn raised her hand. “Excuse me.”
“Well, I need to find out a few things.”
Jodie raised her hand as well. “I think we deserve to be told why we’re here.”
“Surely that isn’t necessary,” said Li, chuckling nervously.
Quinn frowned. “Please?”
Tommy sighed. “Okay. Well, as you’ve no doubt guessed, I’m not dead.”
“Wow,” said Sandi. “Impressive. We never would have guessed that by ourselves.”
“Sandi,” said Quinn. “Maybe we should let him talk.”
“Gee, I’m sorry, Quinn. I’d no idea you were such a great hostage negotiator.”
“Shut up!” hissed Jodie. Sandi blinked in surprise and was quiet. Jodie turned back to Tommy. “I’m sorry. Go on.”
“I faked my own death,” said Tommy. “You see, as a college quarterback, I had quite a hefty life insurance policy. I figured if I could do that, I would be set for life.”
“But,” said Brittany. “You died. We saw the body.”
“I had help,” said Tommy. “From inside the school. Someone here planted a fake body for me, so I could slip off while the world thought I was dead.”
Everyone looked at Li.
She laughed nervously. “What are you all looking at me for?”
“I wonder,” said Jodie wryly. “So she double-crossed you, right?”
Tommy nodded. “She cheated me out of my share of the money, and I want it back.”
“Would it help if I said I put it to good use?” said Li hopefully.
There was an icy silence in the room.
“So,” said Tommy. “Basically, my plan was to take her hostage and force her to get her broker to transfer the money into my account. Pretty smart, huh?”
“It’s Saturday, moron,” said Sandi.
“It’s Saturday. The banks are closed.”
Tommy scratched his head. “Shit. Guess I should have thought this through a little better before doing all this.”
“It’s okay,” said Brittany soothingly. “I do this sort of thing all the time.”
Quinn saw a chance to get out of this. “So you’re going to let us all go, then?”
“Oh.” Tommy glanced around at the room. “Er...I think I definitely should have thought this through a bit better.”
“That’s okay,” said Sandi. “It doesn’t seem like that’s one of your strong points.”
“Sandi!” said Jodie angrily. “Ignore her, Tommy. Look, I know you’ve been wronged, and I can understand you’re very upset. Let’s all go home and get this sorted out on Monday. Right?”
Tommy scratched his head. “I don’t know. That seems reasonable. Hmm.”
“Let’s do that,” said Li.
Tommy looked at her. “Nah, screw it. Get your broker on the phone, explain the situation, and get him to make an exception, okay?”
“But,” said Li. “He won’t do it.”
“He’d better,” said Tommy menacingly. “I can be a pretty dangerous guy when I’m angry.”
“Yeah,” said Sandi. “People have to watch out for your nostrils hitting them when they flare that much.”
Tommy waved his gun at her. “Shut up! Look, if I’m going to start killing hostages....which I might,” he added, pointing at himself. “I’m that crazy. But you’re first. Okay?”
“Whatever,” said Sandi snottily.
Tommy handed a cell phone to Li. “Make the call.”
As she dialed, the others sat around looking at each other worriedly.
Daria and Jane sneaked through the corridors, trying to make their way to the exit without being seen.
“This sucks,” muttered Daria, peeking round a corner. “This is the last time I agree to spend my Saturday with you.”
“Shut up. What else could you be doing today?”
“Not being held hostage?”
“We’re not being held hostage,” pointed out Jane, inching round another corner. “We’re just inside a building with some other people who are being held hostage.”
“Ah. Big difference.” Daria sighed. “You know, this sucks. We went through a hell of a lot of soul-searching, and hand-wringing over that Sherman jerk, and now he’s alive again.”
Jane thought for a moment. “Well, know you can go back to hating his guts without feeling guilty.”
Jane frowned and looked at her. “Why aren’t you spending today with your scum-sucking, two-timing, slumming, misogynist boyfriend?”
Daria blinked. “Good job you’re not bitter.”
“I don’t hide it as well when I’m not calm.” Jane looked at her. “So? Why no Tom today?”
Daria sighed. “Our relationship is kind of going down the toilet.”
“Oh no,” said Jane unconvincingly. “Why?”
“Well...” Daria paused. “I’ll tell you later.”
“Is it juicy? I love juicy gossip.”
“No,” said Daria firmly.
“Oh.” Jane sighed in disappointment. “Oh well.”
They reached the final corner before the exit from the school. They looked round the corner gingerly, and then both recoiled as they saw that there was a thug there, guarding the entrance.
“Damn!” whispered Jane. “What are we going to do now?”
“They’ve probably got someone at the other exits, too.”
“I have it on good authority that the latches are electrified.”
“Who told you that?”
“Kevin. Then I paid him ten dollars to show me. Again and again.”
Jane shook her head. “You’re beautiful in your sickness sometimes.”
“Hey, I’ve got to get my thrills somewhere.”
“Since you’re going out with Tom, I can certainly agree there.”
Daria thought for a moment. “We could always try sneaking out the vents.”
“They’re not big enough to crawl through, are they?”
Daria nodded. “Li had this plan to get some robot sentries to patrol them and zap guilty passer-bys.”
“Like that’s ever going to happen.”
Daria shrugged. “The stuff that dreams are made of, kid.” She jerked a thumb down the corridor. “Come on.”
Mack and company ran down the corridor, trying to out run the thugs following them. Mack sought out the most twisted route he could, trying to throw him off balance. It seemed to be working.
Inside, Mack’s mind was working a mile a minute, as usual. How was Tommy Sherman still alive? If resurrection was possible, couldn’t they have picked a better candidate? Did this mean that a Beatles reunion really was possible? Would they have enough sense to get a better drummer this time?
Most of all, he was worried about Jodie. She was capable of taking care of herself, that was for sure. Of course, she hadn’t quite been in this situation before, but then, who had?
They rounded another corner, one leading to an exit, and came face to face with another thug. They screeched to a halt.
“In there!” shouted Kevin suddenly, and quickly led the others into an open doorway.
Mack recognized it. “Not there!” he shouted, to no avail. The others blindly followed him. Mack paused, and looked at the exit. He had no doubt that he could overpower that one thug quickly, before the one following caught up. However, he had a niggling feeling that if he abandoned the others, they’d just go and get themselves killed.
With Kevin, that had a certain appeal, but Mack would probably never forgive himself. He followed them into the doorway, which lead into a dark passageway, and heard the door slam shut behind him. He gritted his teeth, and walked down the passageway. It gave way to a dark staircase.
After a few moments, the staircase opened out into a larger room - the furnace room, to be precise. Kevin, Jeffy, Stacy and Tiffany were standing around looking at each other.
“Where are we?” asked Stacy nervously.
“The furnace room,” said Mack. “That’s why I didn’t want you to come down here.”
“Why’s that?” said Kevin, a confused look on his face.
“They’ve locked us in here,” said Mack. “I’m sure of it. We’re trapped down here.”
“Oh. That’s bad, right?”
Mack nodded grimly. “Kevin, what have I told you about acting on your own before?”
“Never to do it?”
“That’s right. I just hope we can find a way out of here. Help Jodie and the others before Sherman goes through with whatever he has planned.” Mack started to look around for a way out. He looked back at the others. “Kevin? Guys? I need some help here.”
Kevin sat down on a nearby box. “Man, I can’t think straight.”
“I get that way all the time,” said Tiffany soothingly.
“I’ve got a question,” said Jeffy.
Mack sighed. “Jeffy, for the last time, I think that on Quinn Morgendorffer, the downstairs does match the upstairs. Now give it a rest, okay? You’re getting kind of creepy with this.”
“No, it’s not that.”
“It’s not about how hot her Mom is, is it? That was just weird.”
“No,” said Jeffy. “How’s Tommy Sherman alive again? Wasn’t he dead?”
“Yeah,” said Stacy. “We had, like, a benefit thing for him and stuff.”
“This blows my mind,” said Kevin. “He was, like, my hero, then he died. Now he’s alive again. I can’t handle this.”
“Yeah,” said Jeffy, scratching his head. “People don‘t come back to life, do they? Except Superman.”
Kevin nodded. “Good point.”
Mack threw his arms up into the air. “Where do you guys get this stuff from?”
Stacy shivered. “This whole Tommy Sherman thing is freaking me out!”
“Who’s Tommy Sherman?” said Tiffany, sounding as lost as ever.
“Guys,” said Mack levelly, trying to think of a convincing excuse. “That’s not Tommy Sherman.”
“It isn’t?” said Kevin incredulously.
“No.” Mack started thinking on his feet. “It’s....Danny Sherman, his evil twin brother. He’s...um...angry with Li for letting his brother die, so he wants revenge. He’s been kind of unhinged because...er...he was breast-fed until he was fifteen.”
“That’s just wrong,” said Tiffany.
“Why didn’t he come forward before now?” said Stacy.
“Um. Because he was...working for the government. He heads...er...Delta Force.”
“Whoa!” Jeffy grinned. “That’s awesome!”
Mack mentally kicked himself. “No, I mean...the evil Delta Force. Or something. Look, just go with me on this.”
Kevin shrugged. “Well, you’ve convinced me.”
The others nodded assent. Mack smiled to himself. What a gullible breed. “Okay,” he said, clapping his hands together. “Let’s start looking for a way out of here.”
Jane fiddled with the venting on the ceiling. “I can’t get this,” she complained.
“Hurry up,” said Daria through clenched teeth. “Having you on my shoulders is starting to take its toll.”
“Patient? You need to lay off the pizza, Jane.”
“Shut it, Morgendorffer. This is all highly toned muscle, unlike a certain someone with a flabby belly that I know.”
“Just get that vent open,” muttered Daria.
“Aha!” Jane removed the vent and hopped down from Daria’s shoulder. “Is there anything that this girl can’t do?”
“Plenty. But on the level of opening ceiling vents, you’re unparalleled.”
Jane took a bow. “After you.”
Daria took a leg-up from Jane and maneuvered herself into the vents. There was just enough room for her to shuffle forward. After a short pause, she could hear Jane shuffle in behind her.
“Okay,” said Jane. “Do you know the way out from here?”
“Actually,” said Daria. “I don’t. I was just going to wing it.”
“Sounds like a plan. Lay on, MacDuff.”
As gracefully as they could, they began crawling through the vents, trying to find a way out.
Back in the detention room, the four girls were huddled in the corner, Tommy Sherman was idly aiming his gun at Li, the other thug was idly reading a magazine, and Li was frantically trying to reach her broker on the phone.
Sandi snorted derisively. “When’s this going to end? All this stress is terrible on my complexion.”
“Sandi,” said Jodie impatiently. “There’s more important things in life than your complexion, you know?”
“If there is, I haven’t found it.”
Brittany twirled her hair nervously. “Jodie, I’m scared. Is he going to hurt us? I knew he was a jerk, but I didn’t know he’d do all this.”
“I don’t think he will,” said Quinn. “He had plenty of chances to shoot us when Mack and Kevin were here. I don’t think he’d go through with it.”
Sandi snorted again. Jodie tried to ignore her. “Look, I’ve already got a few ideas. Give me a few minutes, and I’ll have a plan.”
Brittany nodded excitedly. “Okay!”
Quinn did the same.
Brittany frowned. “Where do you suppose Kevvy is? He and Mack were being chased by one of those nasty...
“Badly dressed,” said Sandi.
“Poorly hair styled,” added Quinn.
“Thugs,” finished Brittany. “Do you think he’s okay?”
“Oh yes,” said Sandi. “With Stacy and Tiffany with them, I’m sure they did fine.”
“God!” said Quinn suddenly. “What’s with you today, Sandi? You’re like amped to the max, or something.”
“I’m sorry Quinn, am I offending you?”
“Oh no, Sandi,” said Quinn. “You could never offend me.” Then she paused. “On the other hand, Hell yes!”
“Well, I just don’t react too well to being taken hostage.” She paused dramatically. “Especially, on my birthday!”
“What?” said Quinn worriedly. She took out a small diary from her pocket and checked the calendar. “Shit.”
Jodie and Brittany were looking at the two of them with surprise.
“You two are best friends?” said Brittany incredulously.
“Don’t worry, Brittany,” said Jodie, patting her on the shoulder. “I can’t believe it sometimes, either.”
Quinn folded up the diary, and put in her pocket. “Oh Sandi, I’m sorry! I just forgot!”
“Obviously, I’m not such a big part of your life, huh, Quinn?” Sandi folded her arms and turned away from Quinn. “It’s okay,” she said with a theatrical sniff. “I understand.”
“Sandi...” said Quinn, trying to be placating.
“Hey!” It was Tommy from the front side of the room. “What are you talking about back there?”
“She forgot her best friend’s birthday,” said Brittany, pointing to Quinn.
“Whoa,” said Tommy. “That’s rough. Man, I’d be so pissed if anyone did that to me.”
“I am,” said Sandi snootily.
“Right on,” said Tommy.
“Hey,” said Quinn. “It’s not like I meant to do it, you know?”
“Didn’t you?” said Sandi.
“Yeah,” said Tommy. “It’s a little bit suspicious, you know? Maybe you did mean to do it, as a kind of unconscious revenge.”
“Shut up,” said Quinn. “Go back to keeping us hostage, okay? If I wanted your advice on birthday matters, I would have asked you.”
“Looks like you didn’t ask anyone,” said Sandi, in a hurt tone.
Tommy shrugged. “Whatever.”
Brittany glanced at Jodie. “This is getting weird. And I’m worried about Kevvie.”
“I know,” said Jodie, putting her hand on her shoulder supportively. “But Mack’s with them, and if anyone can figure out a plan, it’s him.”
Mack threw his hands up in despair. “I give up!” he said angrily. “When I said help me look for a way out, I didn’t mean sit down and stare at the furnace for ten minutes.”
“I’m thinking,” said Kevin thoughtfully.
“Me too,” added Jeffy. “It could take a while.”
“No shit,” said Mack. He sighed, and sat down next to Stacy and Tiffany. Tiffany was idly filing her nails, while Stacy was looking really rattled. Mack frowned, and looked at her. “Stacy, what’s wrong?”
“Well, I’m just thinking about today’s events. They’re kind of disturbing.”
Mack sighed. “Stacy, I know. But things are going to be okay. I promise. I mean, Tommy Sherman wasn’t the brightest bulb in the sky. His plans can’t be that hard to figure out.”
Stacy shook her head. “It’s not that. It’s me.”
“When we were escaping from the room, I shouted for Tiffany...”
“Yes?” said Tiffany, looking up.
“Nothing,” said Stacy.
“Oh.” Tiffany went back to filing her nails.
Stacy continued. “I called for her and Quinn to come with me, but I didn’t call for Sandi.”
“Ah.” Mack nodded. “Look, Stacy. I know that you and Sandi have a...different kind of friendship. I mean, sometimes I don’t know why you put up with it sometimes. But I think...”
“I think it was a reflection of the deepest urges of my psyche,” said Stacy suddenly. “I think it reflects my desire to...”
“Have a long talk with her?”
“Kill her.” Stacy paused for a second. “There, I finally said it! I’ve never put my desires into words before. It feels really good!”
“Um,” said Mack nervously.
“I think I want to kill her,” said Stacy excitedly. “Yes, that’s it. I’ve had all those weird dreams, and I’ve been drawing all these odd pictures. I didn’t understand them before.”
She produced a small notebook from her pocket, and showed it to Mack. Sandi Griffin did seem to be a fairly consistent figure in the drawings.
“Very lifelike,” said Mack unsteadily. He pointed at one. “Who is that?”
“I think that’s me holding her head up over the roof of Lawndale High while the masses cheer me on.”
“Oh. And this one?”
Stacy looked over. “That’s Fluffy. Her cat.”
“I didn’t know cats ate human flesh,” said Mack queasily.
“Me neither!” said Stacy brightly. “Oh, thank you Mack! You’ve helped me get in touch with my inner feelings!” She threw her arms around him, and he patted her on the back uneasily.
He broke off, swallowed nervously, and stood up. “Well, I’d better get looking for a way out.”
“Okay!” she said breezily.
Mack gave her a final nervous glance, and walked over to Kevin and Jeffy. Kevin glanced up as he walked over. “We’re trapped, man.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” said Mack unhappily.
Kevin thought about it for a moment. “Britt’s not a natural blonde.”
Mack threw his hands up in the air. “Jesus! Kevin, why do you continue to misinterpret everything I say?”
“Habit, I guess.”
Jeffy frowned. “So, does that mean she...”
Mack pointed at him. “Shut up, Jeffy.” He looked up at the ceiling in exasperation, and then frowned. “Kevin, didn’t I tell you to check this part of the room for a way out?”
“But you failed to mention the ceiling vent right above my head.”
Kevin thought about that. “I thought you meant a door or something.”
Mack sighed heavily, and began to remove the ceiling vent. “Why do I have to do absolutely everything around here?” He thought about that for a moment. “Never mind.”
He removed the vent, and looked up into the ducts.
Daria and Jane shuffled through the ducts, trying to figure out what way the exit could possibly be.
“We’re lost,” said Jane unhappily.
“Yes, really, Ms. Sarcasm. We are so lost.”
“Calm down. I think it’s round this corner.” Daria glanced around. “I haven’t seen this set of cameras before.”
Jane sighed. “Who the hell wires ducts, anyway?”
“Jane, think about our school. Is anything here remotely normal?”
“Good point.” Jane looked around. “You know, now I know where all that money from the Lawndale High Band went.”
“We have a band?”
“You know, that lonely looking guy with the cheap keyboard.”
“Oh yes, him.” Daria’s eyes narrowed. “It’s definitely down this way.” She began to shuffle forward a bit faster. Jane rolled her eyes and followed her.
Back in the classroom, Jodie and Brittany were trying to think of a plan. It wasn’t going very well.
Jodie sighed. “Brittany, I appreciate the offer, but I don’t think an inspirational cheer is going to help in this situation.”
“It might!” Brittany cocked her head. “You never know until you try, right?”
“Brittany, it’s okay, really.” Jodie leaned forward. “I have a plan of my own, actually.”
Jodie nodded. “And it’s a good one, if I do say so myself. Tommy’s a jock, right?”
“Of course,” said Brittany, in a confused tone. “Weren’t you listening earlier?”
Jodie sighed again. “Brittany, it was a rhetorical...” She shook her hand. “Never mind. Just follow my lead.”
“Where’s it going?”
Jodie shook her head. “Maybe you’d better not talk any more.”
Brittany thought about it, then nodded. “Okay!” She glanced over to the other side of the room. “Shouldn’t we enlist their help?”
Jodie looked over at Quinn and Sandi. Quinn was trying frantically to apologize to Sandi, and Sandi was having none of it. “You know....no. I think it’s better if we don’t. Okay?”
Jodie walked over to Tommy Sherman, and Brittany followed. “Excuse me,” she said brightly. “Do you have a minute?”
“I don’t know,” he said uncertainly. “Hey, Li! Any progress?”
Li shook her head.
“Damn it.” He shook his head. “I knew I shouldn’t have done this on a Saturday.”
“It’s okay,” said Jodie soothingly. “You tried your best, didn’t you?”
“I guess,” he said unconvincingly.
“We think you’re doing a great job of holding us hostage so far, right Brittany?”
“Sure!” said Brittany brightly. “I was really scared when you came in.”
“You mean it?” said Tommy. “I mean, I know I’m kind of intimidating looking, but I’ve never been so good at the actual threatening part.”
“Well, I think you did it just fine,” said Jodie. “Except...”
“Well...” said Jodie. “I don’t really think your heart was in it, was it?”
“What do you mean?” Tommy frowned.
Jodie sighed. “It just seems to me that this isn’t really the sort of thing that you enjoy. Right, Brittany?”
Brittany nodded cheerfully.
“I don’t know,” said Tommy uncertainly. “I mean, this wasn’t part of the plan originally.”
“You’re telling me,” muttered Li.
Jodie ignored her. “I know. You just felt pressured to do this to get your share of the money, like you were promised.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“But what I want to know is, why you did this in the first place?”
“Oh.” Tommy paused.
“I mean, you were a football hero,” said Brittany. “Everyone loved you.” The last part came out as particularly forced.
Tommy sighed. “I...oh man, I don’t know. I’m not really in touch with my inner feelings. I’m more of a big insensitive jerk.”
“I know,” muttered Brittany, then she yelped as Jodie elbowed her.
“Oh, Tommy. I think you know why, deep down. Just let it out,” said Jodie, using her most soothing voice.
“Hmm.” Tommy paused. “I think a lot of it was that I never lived up to my parents’ expectations. So I kind of faked my own death to live in very rich obscurity.”
“That makes sense,” said Jodie unconvincingly.
“It does?” Brittany frowned.
Jodie elbowed her again. “Tommy,” she cooed, taking his hands. “I think you need to be more in touch with your inner self-actualization.”
Jodie thought back to all those stupid classes with Mr. O’Neill. “You need to realize your inner core potential.”
“I don’t understand,” said Tommy helplessly. He looked at Brittany, who just shrugged.
“Just let me handle all the big words,” said Jodie. “Just tell me how your parents made you feel inadequate.”
“Well, I had this brother. He was always better than I was. I was a college football star, and he was...”
“Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”
“Oh,” said Jodie. “Yes, I can see how that could be a problem.”
“I’d be calling my parents , and they’d be like “Your brother is dinner with the President again. You just throw balls around a field. You know what I’ve told you about playing with balls”.”
“Uh-huh,” said Jodie.
“And I’d tell her that I didn’t want to be a football star, and all I wanted to do was draw bunnies and kitties!”
“I love kitties!” said Brittany excitedly.
“I write poetry, too, you know,” said Tommy emotionally. “It’s bitter stuff. About how no-one really understands me, and stuff. I had a dream to be a poet once.”
“Really?” said Jodie in a weird voice. She couldn’t quite believe the direction this conversation was taking.
“Oh yes. “I’d write sensitive poetry about flowers, and kitties, and rabbits, and stuff. I wouldn’t have to pretend to be a rough, insensitive football player any more. That’s how I figured all that cash would help.”
“That’s a good dream,” said Brittany emotionally. “I want to hear your poetry.”
“Brittany...” began Jodie.
“Sure!” said Tommy excitedly. “I have my notebook here.”
Jodie glanced up at the other thug. “Does this weird you out, too?”
“I’m only hired muscle, ma’am,” said the thug. “I’m not paid to have a personality.”
“I see.” Jodie sat back in her chair, and prepared to listen to Tommy Sherman’s poetry.
In the ducts, Mack and company shuffled forward, following Mack’s lead.
“You do know where we’re going, don’t you?” said Kevin.
“Of course,” said Mack. “Trust me.”
“Um,” said Stacy, sometime from the back. “Are we going to go in with guns blazing?”
Mack frowned. “No. We don’t have guns, and that would be a great way to get people killed.”
“Don’t they normally lose some hostages in these sorts of thing?” said Stacy. “I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if we picked the right ones to lose. It would be an accident, of course.”
Mack shivered. “Um, Stacy? Freaking me out a little here.”
“Sorry.” Stacy turned to Tiffany, who was crawling behind her. “Tiffany? Have you ever felt like killing Sandi?”
Tiffany thought for a moment. “Sometimes voices tell me to do it, but they’re always drowned out by all the other voices in my head.”
“Really?” said Stacy. “I think that...”
“Stacy,” said Mack sharply. “No-one is going to die, accidentally or not.”
“Okay,” said Stacy glumly.
Jeffy tapped Mack on the foot. “Hey, Mack? Do you think Quinn will be grateful to us for rescuing her? I mean, she might go out with me now.”
“I wouldn’t get your hopes up,” muttered Mack.
“Oh,” said Jeffy, in a disappointed tone.
“I know Britt’s going to thank me,” said Kevin smugly. “Thank me a lot, if you get my drift.”
“Could you go into greater detail?” said Jeffy hopefully.
“Guys,” said Mack, exasperatedly. “Let’s not have any more talking, okay?” He turned to the front sharply. There was a noise coming from around the corner. Mack shushed everyone, and readied himself for a hostile presence.
Instead, round the corner came Daria and Jane. The two groups stared at each other for a few moments.
“Hello,” said Daria, in a shocked tone.
“Hi,” said Mack, equally surprised. “Um, what are you doing here?”
“Trying to get out of the school, and get some help. You?”
“Hi Mack,” said Jane, waving from behind Daria.
“Hi.” Mack waved back. “Um, trying to rescue the hostages.”
“Hmm.” Daria tried to glance behind him. “Who do you have with you?”
“Me, Kevin, Jeffy, Stacy and Tiffany.”
“Who is it, Mack Daddy?” It was Kevin, from somewhere behind him.
Daria gave him an odd glance.
Mack sighed. “I know, I know. I have a plan, though.”
“Better be a damn good plan.”
“Tell me about it.” Mack sighed heavily. “Why does this stuff always have to happen in this school?”
“Must be something in the water.” Daria glanced at him. “So...are you going to let us past?”
“Well...” Mack thought for a moment. “There’s more of us than there is of you. It’d be harder for us to all back up.”
“Where’s your gentlemanly soul, Mackenzie?” said Jane.
“Sorry, Jane. Just try to imagine getting Kevin and the others to coordinate, and you’ll see my point.”
“Did someone mention my name?” yelled Kevin.
Jane looked at him. “Good point. We’ll back up and you can slip past us, okay?”
Mack nodded, and they did so. As they passed Daria and Jane, Mack smiled at them. “Good luck.”
“I think you need it more than us,” said Daria, smirking.
Mack sighed, and continued down the duct.
After Mack and company had passed them, Daria and Jane continued to the exit. Or what they thought might be the exit. As they passed over a vent, Daria frowned, and stopped.
“What is it?” asked Jane.
Daria shushed her. “I think we’re right over the classroom where Sherman and the others are,” she whispered. “Keep your voice down.”
“I can’t hear anything,” whispered Jane. “Are you sure?”
“Positively. I can hear Sherman.”
“What’s he saying?”
Daria pressed her ear to the vent. Then she frowned. “I think...” She paused. “I think he’s reciting poetry.”
“What?” Jane tried to listen in. “I still can’t make anything out.”
“He is. He’s reciting really bad poetry.”
Jane shrugged. “Must be some sort of devious mental torture.”
“Can you hear any of the others?”
“Hold on.” Daria shuffled forward. “I can hear Li. Sounds like she’s talking to a banker or a broker or something.”
“Hell of a time to do your taxes.”
“Look who we’re talking about here.” Daria shuffled forward a bit more. “I think I can hear Quinn, too.”
Daria frowned. “Sounds a little upset. She’s groveling to Sandi. Seems she forgot her birthday.”
“That Sandi. Always has her priorities straight.”
Daria pulled herself up. “Come on. Let’s get out of here before this turns even more weird.”
“Can it, though?”
“Hell, Jane. This is just a typical day at Lawndale High.”
Jane thought about this. “You know, that’s true, sadly.”
The twosome continued towards the exit. After a few more minutes, they reached a vent in the wall. Daria peered through it, then kicked it through as hard as she could. Daylight streamed into the duct, and the two girls clambered out as gracefully as they could.
Once out of the duct, they looked around.
“We’re out the back of the school,” said Daria. “Come on, let’s get round to the front.”
They walked round to the front, and much to their surprise, Trent’s car was there. Jane frowned, and walked over. Trent was in the front, snoozing. Jane knocked on the window.
“Trent?” Trent’s eyes flew open.
“Oh, hi, Janey.”
“Trent, you weren’t supposed to pick me up for another four hours.”
Trent shrugged. “Figured I’d better be early than late. You know.” He yawned. “Oh, hi Daria, by the way.”
Daria waved hello.
Jane leaned into the car. “Trent, do you still have that cell phone I got you for Christmas?”
Trent nodded. Jane held out her hand, and Trent handed it over. Jane dialed 911, and waited.
“Hello? I need to get the cops here right now. Lawndale High, I mean. Why? It’s been taken over, and some of the students are hostages. No, really. By who? Tommy Sherman. Yes, the dead football hero. No, I’m not drunk. He looked okay to me. Given that he was crushed by a goalpost, you know. No, there isn’t a history of drug use in my family.” Jane paused. “Well, actually there is, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. My name? Jane Lane. Yes, the same Jane Lane who did that puppet thing at Town Hall. Anyway, that was years ago. I figured you would have...you never forget that type of thing? Okay. So are you going to...” Jane lifted the phone away from her ear. “They hung up.”
Daria sighed. “You should have let me do the talking.”
“Yes, because you’re so sincere all the time.” Jane sighed. “What the hell do we do now?”
Trent leaned out of the car. “So what’s going on in the school?”
“Tommy Sherman’s returned to life and is holding some of our classmates hostage.”
“Heavy,” said Trent.
“I know,” muttered Daria. “I guess we should try to save them.”
“I guess,” said Jane half-heartedly.
“Sounds about right,” said Trent.
“Mom would just give me grief if I came home without Quinn, anyway.” Daria looked back towards the school. “We can probably sneak back in through the ducts.”
“I’ll be waiting for you guys whenever you’re done,” said Trent. “Do you need some lunch or anything?”
Daria and Jane looked at each other.
“I guess it couldn’t hurt to go for tacos,” said Jane, shrugging her shoulders.
Mack silently landed on the floor, and looked around. There seemed to be no-one around. He beckoned to the others, and one by one, they climbed down out of the vent. Mack checked round the nearest corner, and led them into an empty classroom.
Once inside, he shut the door and looked at them.
“Okay. I’m figuring that they’ve got Jodie and the others in the same classroom, and if they’ve got any intelligence, which is an unknown factor right now, they’ve got the others watching the exits, forming a perimeter. Any questions?”
Kevin shot his hand up. “What’s a perimeter?”
Mack sighed. “Any intelligent questions?”
Tiffany shot her hand up. “Do I have time for a makeover? All that crawling was bad for my hands.”
“No,” said Mack firmly.
“But I need one,” said Tiffany blankly.
“We don’t have time. We have other things to do.”
“What could be more important than that?”
Mack sighed again. “No makeover. Okay?”
Tiffany frowned, but didn’t say anything.
Stacy raised her hand. “Will we get to be violent?”
Mack shook his head. “I’m looking to do this with a minimum of violence.”
“Oh,” said Stacy in a disappointed voice.
“And none whatsoever against the hostages,” added Mack.
“Damn it,” said Stacy and began pouting.
Mack looked around. “Any other questions?” Jeffy raised his hand. “That aren’t about sex?” Jeffy put his hand down. Mack sighed again. “Okay, we’re going to take out the perimeter guards, then move in and take out Sherman, and rescue the hostages. Everyone understand?”
“I was right with you up until you said ‘okay‘,” said Kevin. “Can you go over it again?”
Mack put his face in his hands. Then he straightened up, and cleared his throat. “I know this is a dangerous situation, and frankly, you’re not the group of people I would have picked for this. But we have a job to do...”
“I don’t have a job,” said Kevin.
“Standing all day is bad for my feet,” said Tiffany.
“I had a job, but Sandi made me quit it,” said Stacy bitterly.
“I helped Quinn with her job once, but she never thanked me,” said Jeffy wistfully.
Mack stared at the others in a stupor. He was doomed. He’d have more of a chance if he did this by himself. “Tell, you what,” he said. “Why don’t you guys just stay here...”
“And not back up my best bud? No way, Mack Daddy!”
“I have to do this because then Quinn will fall in love with me,” beamed Jeffy. “This time for sure.”
Mack stared at Stacy and Tiffany.
“I should really help Quinn,” said Stacy.
“I’m going to the mall later,” said Tiffany, apropos of nothing.
“Okay,” said Mack, resigning himself to the situation. “Come on.”
Back in the class room, Li was still on the phone, Sandi was now totally ignoring Quinn’s apologies, and Tommy Sherman was pouring his heart out to Brittany and Jodie.
“I think,” said Tommy tearfully. “That I was always afraid of accepting my true calling as a sensitive artist, because society demanded that I fulfill the stereotype of a tough, insensitive jerk of a football player.”
“It’s okay,” said Jodie soothingly. “Let it out.”
“I know exactly how you feel,” said Brittany sympathetically. “I’m only really dating Kevvie because I feel I should. Well, that and his huge...”
“Yes, yes,” said Jodie quickly. “We get the picture. Tommy, you seem like a really sensitive guy inside. I know you only act like a huge colossal jerk because you feel like it’s what society demands of you.”
“You’re right,” said Tommy, sniffling loudly. “All my life I’ve had to deny who I really was - a sensitive, caring artist.” He broke down in tears. Jodie patted him on the back.”
“There, there,” she said soothingly.
At the other side of the room, Quinn and Sandi watched this spectacle.
“Well,” said Sandi. “Maybe he’ll let us go now. I really have to get to the mall. Alone, of course, since my friends don’t seem to care about me.”
“Sandi,” said Quinn impatiently. “I told you I was sorry. What can I do to make up for it?”
“Hmm.” Sandi thought about this for a moment.
“I mean in the terms of gifts, Sandi, not indentured servitude.”
“Don’t try to hoodwink me with your big words,” said Sandi snottily. “You’re lucky I’m even talking to you.”
Quinn frowned. “Oh, Sandi, look. I’m not talking to you.” She turned her back huffily on Sandi, who did the same.
Mack finished tying up one guard, and turned his attention to the other. He sighed when he saw what was happening. Stacy was still kicking the unconscious man, screaming at him. “I hate you, Sandi! I hate you!”
Jeffy and Kevin were standing off to the side, looking at her apprehensively. Tiffany was filing her nails, and was as oblivious as ever.
“Stacy,” said Mack gently. “You can stop now.”
“Damn you, Sandi!” screamed Stacy, giving the prone figure another good kick. She looked up at Mack. “Oh, sorry. Just got carried away there.”
“I can see that,” said Mack. “Maybe you’d better sit the next few out. This seems to be stressing you a little.”
“Oh no,” said Stacy eagerly. “I think this is helping. Helps me to get my aggression out.”
“Okay,” said Mack nervously. “If you say so.”
Stacy beamed. “So where are we going next?”
Mack glanced down the corridor. “If my guess is right, there’s one more exit to get, then we can hit the main room, and rescue the others.”
“Okay!” Stacy smiled brightly. “More guards?”
“Oh goody. I can’t wait to beat Sandi up.”
“The guards,” said Mack.
“You said Sandi, not the guards.”
“I know,” said Stacy, and smiled again.
Mack shuddered and lead the group down the corridor.
Daria took another bite from her burrito and shuffled down the duct. Behind her, Jane kept up.
“Good chalupas,” said Jane with her mouth full.
“Mmm-hmmm,” said Daria. “Too bad we couldn’t fit that Mexican pizza in here. Those things are great.”
“We all have to make sacrifices.”
Daria paused over a vent, and looked into the room below. She pushed it open, and climbed down. Jane followed. They found themselves in the art room. Daria glanced around.
“Okay, so we’re back inside. Now what?”
“I have a plan,” said Jane.
Daria frowned. “I was just about to come up with a plan.”
“Bet it wouldn’t be as good as mine.”
Daria gave her a look. “Okay then, Hannibal. What’s the plan?”
“Okay, so these guys are jocks, right?”
“If this involves any type of Mardi Gras shenanigans, I’m gone.”
Jane shook her head. “No, no. See, the one person they’ll listen to is their coach, right?”
“So we use the materials in here to make an incredibly cunning duplicate of Coach Gibson, and then they’ll do our every bidding!”
Daria just stared at her. “You’re kidding.”
“Got a better plan?”
“Can’t say I do.”
“Okay, then.” Jane gestured to the pile of art supplies in the corner. “Let’s get started.”
Mack and company watched as Stacy easily dispatched yet another guard, this time screaming death threats to her mother.
“Well,” said Mack uneasily. “She’s very effective, isn’t she?”
Jeffy and Kevin nodded nervously. Tiffany looked up. “Yes, my nail polish is rather good.”
Mack shook his head. This kept getting more insane by the minute. On the good side, they had dispatched all the guards by his count. That left only two in the classroom, and they wouldn’t be a problem. Keeping Stacy from killing them, that was the problem.
Mack pointed down the corridor. “Okay, let’s go.”
Jane put the finishing touches to the large cardboard cut-out of Coach Gibson. She looked over at Daria. “What do you think?”
“I think it doesn’t have a head. I know he doesn’t use it a whole lot, but it’s usually there. Jocks or not, they might just see through that part of the deception.”
“I have a head,” said Jane, picking it up. “I just don’t have anything to connect it to the body with.”
Daria frowned. “What are you talking about? There’s plenty of stuff here.”
Jane’s eyes lit up. “I know!”
“I’m not going to like this, am I?”
“We can use Ms Defoe’s macrame plant holder! The strands can be untied for a tough, resistant string.”
“Or we could just use regular string,” pointed out Daria. “It might be more effective.”
“No, no. This is perfect!” exclaimed Jane. “I knew this would come in useful today, somehow.”
“I can’t talk you out of this, can I?”
Jane shook her head. “Come on! Help me unravel this, quickly.”
Daria sighed heavily, and began to help her.
Back in the classroom. Tommy Sherman was having an epiphany. “You mean,” he said emotionally, “that I can do whatever I want to?”
“Of course,” said Jodie nicely. “I’m sure you can realize your dreams in any way you want to.”
“You know, you’re a very smart person.” Tommy looked at her. “I’m sorry that, the first time we met, that I said your ass probably tasted like candy.”
“That’s okay,” said Jodie stiffly.
Li snapped the cell phone shut. Tommy glanced over at her. “What’s that for?”
“Nothing,” said Li evasively. Tommy pointed his gun at her. Jodie grabbed his hand.
“Tommy, remember what I said? We don’t have to be mean.”
“Oh. Sorry.” Tommy put the gun down. “What’s the message, ma’am?”
Li sighed heavily. “The money’s been transferred.”
“All right!” Tommy looked back at the other thug. “We can go now.” He looked over at Jodie and Brittany., and gave them both heavily emotional hugs. “Thank you so much! You know, I knew that this wasn’t me.” He held up his gun. “Heck, these are just water pistols.”
Sandi stood up from the other side of the room. “What? You mean I’ve been cowering in fear, and sweating...(which is very bad for my complexion, I might add) in front of a water pistol? I can’t believe this!”
Before anyone else could speak, the door crashed open, and a very cardboard-looking Coach Gibson burst in. “Okay!” said Coach Gibson (somehow without moving his lips and in an incredible facsimile of Jane Lane’s voice), “Tommy Sherman! Give it up!”
Tommy looked stunned. Then he pointed at the cardboard coach. “No! You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not my father, despite what Mom said!”
There was an awkward silence. Then the Coach’s head fell off, revealing Jane and Daria standing behind the cardboard cut-out. They looked at each other.
“Fucking macrame,” said Daria bitterly.
Tommy blinked and looked at the other thug. “Wait a second - you’re not Coach Gibson! You’re just an incredibly lifelike cardboard cutout!”
“I told you he wasn’t quite that stupid,” said Daria to Jane.
“You know,” said Tommy. “Before I would have been mad at that crack. But the new me accepts that that’s just your way of making up for your inadequacies. Like my jerk jock persona.”
Daria frowned, and looked at Jane. “Is Tommy Sherman psychoanalyzing me?”
Jane shrugged. “Looks that way.”
Suddenly they were pushed out of the way by Kevin, barreling his way into the room. He stopped just in front of the doorway, and adopted a macho pose.
“I’m here to kick bubblegum and chew ass!” he shouted. “And I’m all ass!”
“Truer words were never spoken,” muttered Mack from behind him. “And Kevin, when I say to go in first, I don’t mean to charge in the door. Remember the plan?”
Kevin thought for a moment. “No,” he admitted.
Mack sighed, and the rest of his group moved into the room.
“Okay,” said Mack. “The rest of your little gang has been neutralized. You guys had better give up.”
“It’s cool,” said Brittany. “They were just leaving anyway.”
Mack blinked. “What?”
“It’s true,” said Jodie. “They’re just leaving. No harm done, right?”
“Well, I suppose,” said Mack uncertainly.
Tommy nodded. “I’ve got my money. And I think I’m going to use it to open a big animal sanctuary for puppies and kittens, where I can practice my art, and write sensitive poetry for the rest of my days!” He beamed, waved goodbye to everyone, and walked out, followed by the other thug.
Mack and the rest of his group looked at each other, in a confused way. Daria and Jane did the same. Jodie walked up and gave Mack a hug.
“You’re going to explain all this, right?” said Mack.
Jodie nodded. “Of course. And thank you for your brave efforts to rescue me.”
“Not that it was really needed, though. Should have figured you could take care of yourself.”
“Well, it was very sweet, anyway.”
As Mack and Jodie kissed, Li stood up from her desk.
“Isn’t anyone going to chase those gentlemen! They’ve got my money! I’ll never be able to afford that spy satellite now!”
Everyone ignored her. One thing they couldn’t ignore, however, was all the windows in the room suddenly exploding inwards, and a team of heavily armed SWAT troops swooping in, guns at the ready. Everyone stuck up their hands.
The leader pulled off his helmet. “Nobody move.”
Tiffany opened her mouth, but Stacy put her hand over it.
“Now,” said the SWAT Leader. “Where is that hostage crisis that was reported?”
“I thought you weren’t coming!” said Jane.
“Well, we thought about it, and we realized that Lawndale’s SWAT division hasn’t been called out in twenty years. So, any excuse for a practice, really.”
“You’re too late,” said Li, in an annoyed tone. “They already left. With a great deal of my money, I should add.”
The leader looked at her. “Angela Li. A likely story. You probably planned all this to scam an insurance company, or something.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Li angrily.
“Well, it does to me.”
“Actually,” said Jodie. “I believe that if you check the security tapes, which I believe have sound, you’ll find a confession to a very large embezzlement scam.”
“Oh really?” said the leader, intrigued. “Well, that’s all the proof I need. Angela Li, you’re under arrest!”
Daria and Jane looked at each other. Could this really be happening? Was their bete noire, their nemesis, actually going away? Were all their dreams coming true?
“A-hem!” said Li, sticking her arm under her leg, and wiggling her hand.
The leader looked at it, and frowned. Realization dawned on his face. “Oh!” He did the same, and shook her hand that way. Straightening back up, he cleared his throat. “Well, it seems that the evidence is completely inadmissible, as the tape is blank. Sergeant, go make sure that tape really is blank, if you get my drift.”
The sergeant nodded, and left the room.
The leader turned back to Li. “Sorry about that. I’ll see you at the lodge Thursday?”
The SWAT team picked up their stuff, and filed out, followed by a still-grumbling Li. Everyone else looked at each other.
Brittany bounded over to Kevin, and kissed him passionately. “Oh Kevvie! You’re so brave!”
“Oh babe, it was nothing,” said Kevin with an amazing amount of fake modesty. “But why don’t we go somewhere so you can show me just how grateful you are!”
Brittany giggled, and the duo left the room in a frenzy of sexual anticipation.
Noting that, Jeffy strutted up to Quinn. “So, Quinn. I was pretty brave too, huh?”
“Actually Jeffy,” said Quinn. “You didn’t seem to do a lot of anything.”
“I was taking up the rear,” said Jeffy. “That takes a lot of courage.”
“Uh-huh,” said Quinn doubtfully.
“Don’t I get anything?” whined Jeffy.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” said Quinn. She took his face in her hands, and gave him a deep kiss. “Happy now?”
Jeffy mumbled incoherently, and fell to the floor in a heap of ecstasy.
Quinn shook her head. “Honestly, the things I have to do.”
Stacy and Tiffany walked over. Stacy was grinning maniacally, and Tiffany was Tiffany.
“Um, thanks and stuff for trying to rescue us,” said Sandi. “It almost makes up for Quinn and Stacy forgetting my birthday.”
“I didn’t forget,” said Tiffany.
“I know, Tiffany dear. I’ll treasure that signed photograph of yourself forever.”
“I know,” said Tiffany.
“Well, Stacy. Anything to say?”
“Yes,” said Stacy cheerfully. “I feel great! I’ve worked through a lot of my aggression, and I don’t want to kill you at this precise moment.”
Sandi and Quinn looked at each other nervously.
“You know,” said Sandi. “Maybe I don’t want to give you two such a hard time about my birthday.”
“I wouldn’t,” said Stacy brightly.
Quinn swallowed nervously. “Let’s just forget the whole incident, shall we?”
“Okay,” said Sandi hesitantly.
The Fashion Club stepped over Jeffy’s prone form, and left, giving Stacy some very odd looks as they did so.
Mack and Jodie, and Jane and Daria looked at each other for a while. “Odd day,” said Mack finally.
Daria and Jane nodded. “So what were you two doing in the school, anyway?”
Mack and Jodie exchanged a look. “Nothing,” they said simultaneously.
Then Jodie frowned. “Actually, that’s kind of an odd thing. Is it just me, or has everyone been acting a little off today?”
Daria shrugged. “No odder than usual.”
“I don’t know,” said Mack uncertainly. “I have been feeling a little weird today.”
“Bad breakfast?” said Jane.
Mack shook his head, and walked up to the front of the classroom. He found the control panel that Li had been fiddling with, and flicked a few switches. At that point, the four of them clutched their heads, and looked at each other.
“What is that?” asked Daria.
Jodie glanced at the underside. “Says it’s some sort of mind-control device.”
Jodie shrugged. “Li’s crazy enough to buy something like that. And you do have to admit, it would explain some of today.”
“Like Stacy’s homicidal impulses?” said Mack, shivering.
“I guess,” said Jodie thoughtfully. “Maybe it kind of made us realize our deepest impulses and desires.”
“Why would you say that?” said Daria. “You don’t have any proof.”
“I saw it on Star Trek once. Sounds as believable as anything else, right?”
“It couldn’t work, could it?” asked Jane. “That’s crazy.”
Mack scratched his head. “If it does, do you really want Li to have it?”
“Good point,” said Daria. “I’ll take it, if you like.”
Jodie frowned. “I’d hate to see what you’d do with it.”
Daria sighed. “It was worth a shot.”
“You would have gotten tired of torturing people soon enough, anyway,” said Jane consolingly.
Mack dropped it, and crushed it with his shoes. “That takes care of that.” He turned to Jodie. “What now?”
“I don’t know, mind control or not, I was kind of enjoying what we were doing...” said Jodie with a smile.
“I like the way you think,” said Mack, grinning back. Arm in arm, they walked out of the classroom, leaving Daria and Jane behind.
“Hell of a day,” said Jane brightly.
“I could have done so much with that,” said Daria wistfully.
“I’ll bet.” Jane indicated the door. “Come on, Trent’s probably waiting.”
“By waiting, you mean sleeping, right?”
Jane grinned, and they walked out of the classroom.
In France, groups of tourists gathered below the Eiffel Tower, and saw the best of what Paris had to offer. All except for two very disgruntled teenagers at the end of their tether.
Joey sighed, and sat down on a nearby bench. “Admit it, man. Quinn’s not in France.”
Jamie frowned. “Man, I’m going to kill Jeffy when we get back!”
Joey looked worried all of a sudden. “How are we getting back? I spent all my money on the flight over here!”
“Me too,” said Jamie unhappily.
Joey put his face in his hands. “Jeffy is a dead man.”
Thanks to my wife.
Thanks to MTV.
Thanks to my beta-readers, Roger Moore, TerraEsperZ, Deref, Thea_Zara, Robert Nowall, and Steven Galloway.