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The Switcher

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One thing that never ceased to surprise Jane was the number of creative ways in which life could bring you low. It shouldn’t have been surprising, especially after spending any amount of time under the same roof as Summer, Wind, Penny and Trent, but it did. Even by the standards of those who lived in a tent subsisting on sandwiches and stubborn silence for six months, dying in a shack atop a high school in the world’s lamest hurricane was up there in terms of humiliation. The crowning point, and one of the situation’s saving graces, was that she was also trapped with the idiot responsible for their current predicament. The upside of this was that if she died, she had the satisfaction of taking him with her, so there was that at least.

“Uh, Brittany? Would you mind pointing those things in another direction?”

And there, she thought, smirking slightly, was the other saving grace of the situation, and possibly the only saving grace of her entire high school experience to date. Trust Daria to find something to snark about even in a life or death struggle for personal space in an iccky roof shack, she thought, flailing for levity in a tide of maudlin. The sounds of the storm outside were getting worse and worse, shaking the flimsy walls and rain hammered off the outside, while she tried to hide her fear in a surreptitious glace at Brittany removing her ‘assets’ from her best friend’s face. Daria turned her way and Jane flashed her a smile far more confident than she felt.

“My parents are probably starting to worry,” Daria said.

In spite of the tone, she knew Daria was worried. She tried to hide it, but she was a family type through and through. Sometimes that bothered Jane, especially when she thought of how often everyone in her family seemed to leave her. The rest of the time, it gave her hope, because if a family could tolerate Daria Morgendorffer, then there was hope for everyone. The shack gave another worrying shake, and Jane glanced over at Kevin and Brittany, wondering if they should include the two goofs in the misery party, but decided against it. They had their own thing going on, and the popular couldn’t be troubled with the problems of the lower classes. Best not to disturb them; they were disturbed enough as it was, she thought, smirking at her own poor joke. [i]We who fear death will laugh at anything.[/i] The shack rocked again, harder this time, and Jane shrugged, trying not to think about how she might have heard thunder just then. That was just her imagination, that was all.

“I know mine would be,” she said, nonchalantly, “if they were in town.”

“What about Trent? I’ll bet he’s upset.”

That was the part of Daria that she had mixed feelings about, well, one of many parts, she thought, refusing to acknowledge the multiple entendres there. Her amiga had a biting wit, unflinching principles and a way of alienating people that had endeared her to Jane almost immediately, but she could never leave anything alone. She mustered up a smile and a shrug, her default defenses when pressed.

“I’ll bet he’s snoring.”

“Hey, Daria? Jane?”

They both turned, or at least pivoted, to look at Brittany, whose usual puzzled expression was slightly more focused now. Jane was grateful for the distraction. She loved her brother, she did, but she didn’t like thinking about her family too much. They were related to her in ways she didn’t like to think about and they had their issues, but any further down that road and madness lurked around every corner. So grateful was she, in fact, that she almost completely forgot about the worsening sounds of the storm. Until she reminded herself.

“You guys come up here a lot, right?”

“Define a lot,” Daria said, raising an eyebrow, “but more immediately, why do you ask?”

“Well, I mean, I may not come up here as much as you guys,” Brittany said, breezing past the attempt at sarcasm, “but I’ve [i]never[/i] seen this shack before, and I thought it was weird, but I mean if you guys thought it was okay, then it must have been here the whole time, right?”

That was... an excellent point, actually, now that Jane thought about it, and she could see Daria staring in that maddeningly blank way she did when someone blind-sided her. Some peope gaped, some people gasped, Daria merely stared. Viva Amiga. Brittany, however, wasn’t done yet.

“So,” she continued, oblivious to the blank stares directed her way, “since you guys would know all about this place. What’s that for?”

“What’s what for?”

Again, due to space constraints, they pivoted in the indicated direction to take in the machinery that took up the majority of the confined space they found themselves in. Had anyone asked her before being shunted inside by necessity, Jane would have said that the shack contained some sort of vent-related whatsit, but up close, she was a bit stumped. For one thing, it was far too technical looking and, more to the point, new looking, to be anything that could actually improve conditions for students and staff. Ms Li just did not think that way when it came to capital expenditure. That left the possibility of it being some security contraption or other, though what it did was beyond her.There was a screen, however, and it did say things. She peered closer. Rather worrying things.

“Er, what does Cap. A. City Ex Heeded mean?”

Jane looked at Brittany, then at Daria, whose normally pale features were even paler in the dim light the screen gave off. The wind picked up again, shaking them thoroughly, and Daria cleared her throat.

“It means we may want to get out of-“

Whatever it was that they might have wanted to get out of, Jane never quite found out. For one frozen, perfect moment, Daria was steping back, half turning to finish her sentence, and then there was a crash, or something, and damp darkness rushed in, carrying everything else off with it. It was strange, but there was a kind of comfort in knowing that her last moment was being spent with someone she cared about, and she wondered whether Daria felt the same way. Then she realised that if she could wonder about that, she was still alive, and she blinked, trying to focus. Her head felt like it was a few sizes too small, she ached all over, and something was pulling at her shoulders, but she was still there.

“Jane? Jane?!”

Someone was calling for her, and she coughed, prying one bleary eye open, and froze, because her own, unconscious face was in front of her. That was... That was a head-wrecker alright. In fact, she thought she might continue lying there, looking at herself and not moving until it all somehow made sense. She was right THERE. How? Why? She really could have gotten away with another earring. Maybe it was the sheer impossible madness of the situation, but that thought seemed like the most natural thing in the world. It was like she was outside herself, watching herself sleep. She WAS outside herself, watching herself sleep.

“Jane!”

Someone was shaking her. Or... well, not her, but the her in front of her. She was thinking about pronouns far too much for her liking right then, and she blinked as a slender hand reached into her vision and a shadow fell across them. She knew the voice, but there was something off about it.

“Daria?”

Okay, now that was weird, she thought, there was no way in hell she should sound like that. Her voice had always been deep, yes, but this was... This was not her voice! Why was this not her voice! Why was she over there and her and not speaking in her voice?! The shadow stopped, and her train of thought stopped with it, hope flaring in her breast. Daria was alright and things would make sense. Things had to make sense. She opened both eyes and tried to sit up, looking around into the panicked, blue-eyed face of Brittany, which only further muddled the issue and fueled her panic. Brittany grabbed her shoulders to steady her, eyes narrowing in a familiar expression.

“Kevin,” Brittany said, in Daria’s tones, “why did you call my name?”