Our next story is a direct follow-up in terms of timeline to "The 40 Year Old Grudge". Don't let the title fool you, though. All characters, save for ones created for this story, are copyright Archie Comics. ================================================================== Chapter 1: It started as a typical day at Riverdale High. That is, until one student arrived dressed from head to toe in one of those skin-tight zentai bodysuits usually worn for more, ah, adult pursuits. If the student wanted to remain anonymous, that was nigh impossible, thanks to the monogrammed ankle boots that gave away who was under the zentai.............. "Veronica? What are you doing?", Reggie Mantle wanted to know after first period. "If Miss Grundy or The Bee sees you, you'll be spending spring break in detention!" Veronica Lodge glanced down toward her boots. The initials "V. L." on the side of the boots gave her away. She had accessorized by wearing a blue jean skirt and sleeveless white blouse, and had her gym clothes on under the suit. Looking this way and that, she grabbed Reggie by the wrist and led him into the empty stairwell. "I have no choice, Reggie.", she said. "I was told to wear the zentai to school, because they said someone would be watching. I'm being recruited for a top secret organization." "Adults and college students wear these things.", Reggie replied. "I see guys wearing them at college sporting events. Heck, some of them show up at Riverdale High games. All I'm saying, honey, is that you're running the risk of, at worst, a lengthy suspension if you get caught. It shouldn't take you long to find the ladies room and change before next period." Veronica thought about it for a minute. She knew Reggie was right. If she did get caught by principal Waldo Weatherbee, she would be spending time in detention instead of going on spring break. Seconds later, the two found the nearest ladies room, and Reggie stood guard outside while Veronica changed. Just as the bell sounded to end the break, Veronica emerged, with the zentai suit now in her duffel bag. "I'll just store this in my locker after next class.", she said. After school, Veronica was on her way to work at New Dimensions Fashions with best friend Betty Cooper, and the subject of the zentai came up. "Just how did you get mixed up in all this?", Betty inquired. "There was an e-mail I received Wednesday night after work. It seemed to be legitimate, so I saved it for further study. I need some adventure in my life, Betty, something the boys can't provide.", Veronica said. "I got the same e-mail. Like you, I saved it for further study, but didn't go shopping for a suit right away. I needed to find out more before I made a commitment. You nearly compromised everything by showing up wearing a zentai this morning." "Reggie already gave me the 3rd degree on that. Seems the boys are a little more informed about those things, if, like Reggie, Archie's seen some of those college kids wearing them on TV." "He has. Doesn't see the value in it, but one of us could change his mind." "Look, Betty, I have to leave early tonight, because there's a meeting I have to go to that starts at 9:30, and I need time to change. I'm being picked up in front of the library at 9." "I'll cover for you, Ron. It'll give me some time to think this over." Meanwhile, Archie Andrews was doing some research at home when Reggie came by. At Reggie's suggestion, Archie did an online search for "secret zentai society-Riverdale", and came up with........ "The Guardians of the Night.", Reggie read. "An all female collective dedicated to fighting crime and ending violence against women." "Both Ronnie & Betty said that they got e-mails from this organization.", Archie replied. "I can picture them in these things, but not as vigilantes." "Vigilantes?" "You know, like the Guardian Angels, a group based in New York and founded in the 80's. Their leader's now a political activist and talk show host up there. The girls have taken self-defense courses, sure, but what good is that against a mugger with a gun?" "Good point, Arch. I just hope Ron knows what she's doing." "Knowing Ronnie like we do, she dove in head-first. You saw how she tried to make a fashion statement this morning. She gave herself away with the boots when she needed to go completely undercover, like the Guardians wanted her to." "How did you know?" "There was a new hall monitor at school this morning. No ID, and was gone after second period. Seeing as how you coaxed Ronnie out of her suit, the monitor left to file her report and never returned." "You think maybe TSI should look into this, just to protect the girls?" "If it comes to that, Reg, we will." ================================================== Around 9:15 pm, Veronica, once more dressed in a red zentai suit under her outer clothes, waited at the Riverdale public library. A black car pulled up, and a woman in a blue zentai suit motioned her into the car. "Ms. Lodge, I presume?", asked the driver, dressed in black. "Yes. I apologize for this morning." "No need. That was my mistake. I forgot you're a high school student, and couldn't wear the suit without reprisals. Seems your friends were willing to give you cover." "Well, yes." "Speaking of cover.", said the woman in blue, "How will you explain your absence from home this evening?" "I already have a cover story.", Veronica replied. "My folks think I'm staying with a friend for the night, and will be home tomorrow morning." "Good. Seems you do know something about working undercover." "I've seen a few movies, read a few books." "Smart girl. You may be just what we need." Meanwhile, Betty had paid a call on classmate and co-worker Sabrina Spellman, her other best friend. Sabrina had also gotten the same e-mail, and, like Archie & Reggie, was doing due diligence in researching the Guardians of the Night. "They're a legit organization.", she told Betty. "Founded by three sisters whose parents were the victims of a violent crime while they were in college. Inspired by Curtis Sliwa's Guardian Angels from the 80's, they've chosen to mask their identities to represent all women. Their goal is to put an end to violence against women in general. Domestic violence, rapes, muggings, the whole nine yards. The home page doesn't go any further than that in order to maintain anonymity." "So....why recruit Ronnie, or any other high school student?", Betty asked. "Because their numbers have dwindled. Some early members have left due to finding jobs out of town. They don't realize we're under 18, which, according to their charter, is the minimum age." "And you think Ronnie's in over her head?" "Maybe, maybe not, but she could use a couple of friends for back-up." "Are you suggesting we join?" "Ronnie's in. They'll be asking her to see if you'll follow, and the chain follows from there. Since you and I have experience as crime fighters, and she doesn't, it makes sense." ======================================================== "Tonight, you'll be staying here, Ms. Lodge, and you'll at least learn the basics of our program.", said Number 1, dressed in a silver zentai suit. "Velvet will give you a set of nose filters to wear under your mask, so you can breathe while you sleep. You won't be removing the suit until tomorrow morning's workout." Veronica looked around, trying to discern with her vision slightly impaired, the location of the Guardians' headquarters. "How many members do the Guardians have?", she asked. "We're actually lowering the minimum age, since so many members moved away due to family or job issues, in case you wondered. We're down to 30 at present, you included. We come from all walks of life. Under these masks, we're bankers, secretaries, nurses, you name it. We had to recall the agent we placed at your school this morning after you were forced to remove your uniform. She was to meet with you at lunch time. I'm hoping you can help us recruit your classmates." "I can, but I'm more concerned about the decent boys, like the ones I've dated. They'd be willing to help in any way if asked. They're good with research." "So are we. I'm aware that you're part of a team already at Riverdale, and I don't mean the cheerleading team. I mean Teen Scene Investigations, and I think we can use TSI's help, provided, of course, the male members can be trusted to not only protect you, but also preserve the secrets of our membership." "I don't think that's a problem.", Ron said as Number 1 approached with a handshake. "Then, it's done. You'll be assigned a code name to go along with your uniform color." =============================================================== So Veronica is now part of the Guardians of the Night. As she will discover, along with the rest of the gang, there's a price to be paid for such a commitment.