Rings of smoke drifted obtrusively through the air. The warehouse was cold, the windows shattered and the winter air drifting in. Emily pulled her trenchcoat close around her; the single reason she was thankful for it. To be honest, she didn't really see the point of wearing the thing, but Luke had insisted and she figured she might as well play along. She waved her hand in front of her face, deflecting the smoke. "Why do you have to smoke, exactly?" "Tradition," said Luke. He stood a few metres away from where Emily sat. Emily watched her brother take a long drag off the cigarette as she pulled her red hair back into a ponytail, idly. "We have to look the part, after all." "I didn't think demon hunters had to look a certain way," Emily said. "Although, the trenchcoat's warm." Luke shrugged, his unremarkable shoulders enhanced somewhat by the black trenchcoat he had slung on. A few moments passed in silence. "Look, are you even going to tell me about the hair?" Luke turned. His hair was jet-black, and had become tangled; uncombed in days. "I said. To look the part." He tapped the cigarette's ashes out on to the floor. "Same with the makeup? Christ, Luke. Do you have to go goth just to be a demon hunter?" Emily stood up, leaving the old crate behind. "We didn't need all this stuff when I banished those 'demon hordes' or whatever they were, last month." "WE. We banished them." "No we didn't. I did. You were busy being sick on the floor." Luke frowned, lines appearing on the eighteen-year-old's face, but he let it go. "I thought you said you were going to work on the accent." "I don't want to," said Emily. "I don't want to sound British. I want to sound like me." "But..." "Sigh. Banish a couple of demons one time and we have to be trenchcoaters. Have you even managed to figure out how to contact this Brigade that Grampa's books mentioned?" "Naw," Luke said, after a pause. The two teenagers said nothing, for a moment. "But I figured something out, right?" He puffed on his cigarette, and then spoke again. "We gotta make a name for ourselves, no?" Emily shrugged. "See, they're these costumed types in Net.ropolis. Fascists, no doubt. But they let teenagers run with them all the time, in their silly costumes. Battling criminals and magic and stuff. We get in with them, say we'll be sidekicks or something. Then we get known and eventually the Brigade'll come looking for us..." "...And we'll be legal," muttered Emily. "Grampa's book said the Brigade always hung out in bars...I mean, pubs. If it's really that important..." Luke nodded his head. "It's the way things work, Emily. It's symbolic, a such." "Fine, we go to Net.ropolis. I still think this is really silly; all this stuff is really just crutches, we don't need it..." "Yes, we do!" "...mmph. Right then, Smart Guy. Care to explain how we get to Net.ropolis?" Luke grinned, his mouth wide and outlined with black lipstick. "What?" Emily raised an eyebrow, and fiddled with her bulky trenchcoat. "What are you thinking, Luke? Oh no. I know that look..." "Road trip!" "Oh god. Gods. Whatever." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Blue Light Productions Presents TEENS IN TRENCHCOATS, episode the first, "I don't WANT to be an Agent of Chaos!" by Ben Rawluk, Prodigal Son Returned. =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= VW Beetle zoomed down the highway, amongst the cornfields and grass. They'd been driving for six hours straight; the white-faced boy in the black trenchcoat behind the wheel, the red-haired girl in the brown trenchcoat in the passenger side. He'd only been able to talk her into wearing some silver, ankh earrings. "That," she had said, "Is as far as I'll go with the occult jewelry bit." Then she muttered something about the real power being in something that the boy hadn't heard properly; "headology," he guessed she'd said, although she refused to repeat it. For the last hour, no one had said anything. "How much longer?" Emily looked over at Luke. "Another hour or so," said Luke, pouting. "Y'know, we should probably phone Mom and Dad when we get to this headquarters." "Accent," was all Luke said. Another five minutes passed. "I packed Grampa's journals and some clothes...real clothes...and some food," Emily said, finally. "What are we going to do if they don't let us join?" "They will." "Mmn," said Emily. "Why do I get the feeling you've just been waiting for an excuse to run away?" Luke shifted uncomfortably in the driver's seat, but said nothing. "It's not like Grampa meant to summon that demon. I think. He was just goofing around." Luke remained silent. "Apparently it runs in the family," she said, shooting her brother a look. "Like you hate this," muttered Luke. "I...I just think this is silly. All these...well, props and stuff. Why waste time with a lot of empty ceremony?" "It's not empty! It's just...it's the rules, right? Can't play the game without the rules." "It's not a game," muttered Emily. "What?" "Nothing." Luke's reached for the dashboard, for his carton of cigarettes. Emily frowned. "Don't even think about lighting up in here, Luke. I'll kill you. I don't need my lungs exploding down the road. And don't say it's traditional. It's just a filthy habit. And it's not doing your asthma any good." The hand retracted. "Fascist," mumbled Luke, under his breath. "Morbid wanker," Emily mumbled back. No doubt, you've seen the lobby of LNH Headquarters. On one of the myriad tours that pass through it ever day, generally when it's convenient for the plot. In one of the many magazine articles and television interviews that are generated, poured into the marketplace to be lapped up by the hero-worshipping consumer, allowing the capitalist fat cats to get all the fatter. Oddly enough, it isn't all that stunning; dull carpet and walls, a few posters framed tastefully, some potted plants. And the receptionist's desk, near the rear. Away from the glass doors that could, of course, explode at any time, often because of a hellgate that just might deposit some villain looking for conquest or a group of misfit heroes fresh from the Demon Dimensions. And Fred sat behind the receptionist's desk. It was his job, and he tried not to think about what might happen. He just sat there for his seven hour shifts, tapping away at the computer screen, hoping he doesn't spontaneously die, waiting for someone to arrive and ask to join...people always did...at which point he'd pull out all the forms. For seven hours a day, Fred turned off his brain and didn't think much at all. If he could avoid it. The screen was uninteresting, so Fred was happy. No little dialog boxes popped up alerting him to some emergency down in the Peril Room, no chat shells opened with pages from the Ninja, typing in capitals. Life was good. Or seemed that way. Then the doors opened. No hellgate, Fred noted. Good sign. ALWAYS a good sign. No explosion. They opened gently, not with the force of a tommygun. The only noise was the sounds of traffic outside. Then he saw who was there. There were two of them, and they wore trenchcoats. The girl looked normal; only some occult earrings and, of course, the trenchcoat. The boy had painted his face white, with black lipstick. Black hair. A trenchcoat which was, naturally, black. Hoping the goth boy wasn't one of those nasty Finishless blokes he'd been warned about, Fred tapped the control key on his computer, and the 't'. The universal command for alerting everyone on site that there were some bloody trenchcoaters on the premises. They looked young, he thought. Teenagers. Far too young to be corrupted into THAT lifestyle, Fred continued in his head. "Excuse me," said the girl, amiably enough, as the two approached the desk. "Yes?!" Fred pushed his chair back, a little. "What do you want?" The girl stared. "Um, we were wondering if we could, y'know, join. The Legion. Of Net.Heroes. This IS the right building, yes?" The boy pouted, thoughtfully. The girl's voice didn't have any hint of British in it, which was generally a good sign when trenchcoaters were concerned. "Yes," mumbled Fred. Instinctively, his mind dissolving back into coma, Fred stuck out his hand, holding a stack of paper. "Fill these out. Applications forms. Please don't hurt me." The girl took the pieces of paper, carefully, and started to leaf through them. "You'll be bloody lucky if we don't," scowled the boy. Bad British accent. The Occult Heroes would have a fit, thought Fred. Fred didn't want to think about what a giant lizard could do to him. He prepared to retreat further. "Luke!" The girl grabbed the boy's shoulder, and dragged him over to the coffee table and couches. "Thank you," she called over her own shoulder. "Right. Just stay the hell away from me," mumbled Fred. Then he thought better of saying a word like 'hell' around trenchcoaters. "You've got to be kidding me." Emily stared down at the stack of application forms. She looked up at Luke. "Who'd have thought there'd be this much paperwork involved in fighting in crime?" "Hmph," muttered Luke. "At least these couches are comfortable. Seven hours in a bug is far too long for this girl." She looked over a form, then looked up again. "Codename? We have to have codenames? What this this? A Marvels Comic book?" "Just put 'Luke and Emily Shade, Agents of Chaos.' It'll make us sound right proper as trenchcoaters." "But our last name isn't 'Shade,' Luke." "Yeah, but 'Luke Jones, Agent of Chaos' doesn't sound right." "And why do we have to be Agents of Chaos? Demon fighting's good enough for me." "It's...more trenchcoater-esque." "Oy," mumbled Emily. "Can you be any more pretentious sounding? Right, I'm just putting 'Luke' and 'Emily,' then. To spite you." "But..." "Oh, hush." "Accent!" "Shut up." Down the central corridor of headquarters, he moved. It was a smooth stride, a swift pace but not a full run. He was tall, but there was nobody about in the deserted corridor to be in awe of him. He dressed in black. A silent, silky, black costume. A long katana was in his hand. Who was he, you ask? Who was this mystery figure who moved like a jungle cat, ready for the kill? The Ultimate Ninja, I say. Fear him, I say. The Ultimate Ninja was, quite understandably, livid. But, someone would say, The Ultimate Ninja is always livid. It's his trademarked character flaw, after all. But today, he was livid because an alarm had sounded in his office because two unauthorized trenchcoaters were skulking about in the lobby. The receptionist was going to get it in the gut for not telling them to bugger off straight away. And heaven help him if he gave them application forms or anything. The thought lodged itself inside the Ultimate Ninja's razor sharp brain, for a second. The Ultimate Ninja broke into an actual run. "Where?" The Ultimate Ninja stared straight through Fred's skull as he emerged from the corridor. For second the receptionist could have sworn the masked leader of the Legion of Net.Heroes had been running, but dismissed that thought as idle fantasy. "Meep," he meeped, and pointed a thin finger over at the couches where the two teenage trenchcoaters had positioned themselves with the stack of application forms. "You'll get yours later," growled the Ultimate Ninja, who silently moved over to the pair of children in grown-up's mucky clothing. "You two. Why are you here?" "To join," growled Luke. "Who are you?" If the Ultimate Ninja was taken aback by the lack of knowledge demonstrated by this...this child, he didn't let on. He simply growled, "The Ultimate Ninja. Leader of the Legion of Net.Heroes. And we don't take kindly to trenchcoaters. Or little children pretending to them." "Children?" Luke actually stood up. Teenage defiance and several layers of cheap, white face paint had apparently diminished the blind panic normally engendered by the Ultimate Ninja's mere presence. "Uh," said Emily, also standing. She could tell where this was going. A blind, deaf Bisz separated from them by the borders of Harnegu could tell where this was going. "Please, Mister, uh, Ninja sir." Her eyes grew wider. The ninja was bloody freaky, she thought. "Pleas let us join. Train us, make us sidekicks, whatever. It's really important to him. I mean, us." This is not the part of the story where the black-clad ninja's stony heart turns to gold. There is no happy music playing in the background, so don't even think he's got a mushy bone in his perfectly tuned body. He simply said, eyeing the two carefully, "Go down there." His long arm pointed down a back hallway. "Go to the door marked 'Interview Room One.' I will have someone along to...deal with you. Be thankful I'm even willing to let you live." "Thanks," muttered Emily, dragging the pouting Luke behind her. "Thank you very very very much..." They vanished down the hallway. The Ultimate Ninja moved toward the receptionist's desk, watching the pair leave his sight. "This is all we need. A Neil Gaimen wannabe and a teenage girl who will no doubt be one more dizzy stereotype without any kind of depth. I'd throw them out directly, except..." "Except?" Fred swallowed, hard. He quietly prayed that the Ultimate Ninja had decided to spare his own life. "Except I can't wait to see their faces when I personally deliver a copy of the Dress Code Regulations," he said. When Fred turned his head, slightly, the Ultimate Ninja was quite absent. "...meep?" The Interview Room was...small. To say the least. Emily had found her way on to a simple, metal chair that was placed against the wall, but Luke had been pacing for five minutes. His expressions ranged from impatient to his cynical, forced expression of "trenchcoatishness." Emily forced the chuckles down into her stomach. "Could you sit still?" "...leave me alone." "Fine. Fine. Whatever. What's taking them so long?" "Dunno." "As soon as this is finished, I'm calling home. They'll be worried sick." "Serves 'em right." "What did they ever do to you, Luke? Mom and Dad are the best." "They're parents, Emily. They're the enemy." Emily sighed, her hands propping up her chin. "Someone sure gave you the wrong pamphlet." There was some clanging from the small ventilation duck in the corner. The two looked over. "What was that?" Luke looked at his sister. "Search me..." "DINSDALE!" a squeaky, faint voice erupted from the vent, before it went silent again. The two trenchcoaters in training looked at each other. "Riiiight," they said in unison. There was a click, and the door opened. A dashing man with cookie-cutter features and nicely combed hair stepped into the room. Actually, his skin tone and general colour scheme seemed to make him look like the product of a B-Movie from the fifties, thought Emily. He wore a simple, white labcoat, and a chilling smile covered his face. "Hello," said the man, before looking down at the sheets of paper on his clipboard. "Miss and Mister Jones." "Hi." This was Emily. "H'lo." That was Luke. "I'm Doctor Stomper, chief pseudoscientist of the LNH. Ultimate Ninja asked me to come interview about probationary membership." "Ah," said Emily, as Stomper sat. Luke folded his arms. "Er, can I ask a question?" "Go ahead." "What do you mean by 'pseudoscientist?' You're not a real scientist...?" "I...it's a long story, Emily. I can call you Emily, right?" "Sure." "Hmph," mumbled Luke. "Right. Now then, shall we began? Okay. First of all, what made you decide to try out for the Legion of Net.Heroes...?" Pencil stabbed into paper, a box was checked. "Okay, Emily. Luke. Only a few more questions to go. Now, you said you had no actual powers, on your application forms here..." "Right." "You refer to yourselves as 'demon hunters'? Occult preference, then. So, you have special demon hunting skills, yes?" "Well. We have a journal of our Grampa. Apparently he was a magician way back in the black and white days. Y'know, way back when." Emily smiled, vaguely. "He sort of conjured up this demon horde last month, and I...we...banished them. With a bit of work. He had a few diagrams in his workshop, you see. We were actually hoping we could maybe get trained a bit more with it?" "Occultism Kid might have some lessons to teach you," said Stomper. "So, are we in?" Luke looked at the pseudoscientist carefully. It was the first thing he had really said in half an hour. "Well...I'm willing to say so. On probation, of course. To see if you fit in well, play with others nicely, that sort of thing..." "Pfft," mumbled Luke. "Thank you, Doctor Stomper," said Emily. Stomper smiled. "Call me Doc." Emily smiled back. Luke shrugged his shoulders. Emily gestured to him, and said, "Don't mind him; he'd just explain that his attitude is traditional for a trenchcoater." "Ah," chuckled Stomper. "Well then. We should go arrange some access cards and rooms for you. And then a tour would be in order. One of our members used to handle the tours, but she got married some time ago. So I'll have to track down a suitable replacement for you. Otherwise..." "It's all good?" "Exactly." "Grand," said Luke. "Show us where the demons are, and we'll banish 'em." "Hush, Luke." Emily turned to Doc Stomper, "Er, do you mind if I use a phone?" "Go ahead. There's one in the lobby." "Hi? Mom? It's Emily." "Where am I? Luke and I...we're in Net.ropolis." "Look, it's kind of a long story, but you know all that weird stuff that happened in November? With Grampa and that monster thing? Calm down, Mom. It's only a seven hour drive. We're fine. Look, we kind of got rid of that monster thing ourselves." "What? Look, Mom. It's Net.ropolis. Superhero central. We're more than safe. Yes, Luke's doing okay. Well, he's his usual self. We kind of got accepted into the Legion of Net.Heroes. No, we're not going to wear spandex. I don't think. Yes, we know it's dangerous. Look, it's important to Luke, Mom." "Dad won't have a heart attack, Mom. Yes, we took the beetle. Yes, we packed. I do know how to think, Mom. We have clothes, and money, and I can get more out of my account. I have my bank card, Mom, and the LNH pays for living costs. And we'll have a place to stay at the LNH's headquarters, Mom. No, no supervillains have tried to kill us. Yes, we'll be careful. No, we're not coming home." "Mom, we're fine. We're eighteen! We're not kids anymore. No, we didn't join a cult. We joined a SUE-PER-HE-ROE-TEE-MUH. Say it with me now, Mom. Look, I have to go, Mom." "Don't worry, we'll be fine, Mom. No, don't catch a flight up here. Yes, tell Dad. No, don't call the police. We're just teenagers, Mom. Not outlaws. No, we're not hanging out with 'junkies.' We'll be fine, Mom. We'll be fine. Really. We can take care of ourselves. I said, I have to go." "I have to go, Mom! I'm not yelling. I have to go. Look, we'll call you again later. Tomorrow. Evening. Honestly, Mom. Would I lie? No, I wouldn't...that was an isolated incident. Look, agh, I have to go, Mom. Bye!" Slam goes the receiver. "Gah," said Emily. "Maybe he's right. Maybe they ARE the enemy." Emily banged her head against the wall. "Ow." -- NOTES FROM BEN, THE AUTHOR. Yes, I'm back. Way back when, I used to write for the LNH. Not the most successful writer of it...I did better when I got into the groove of Superguy...but I was always there, mostly lurking the last little bit. I got a social life, and a nascent University life, and work, etc, etc...and more a long time, I didn't feel inspired to write prose that wasn't the reams of essays on William Faulkner and Native Land Claims in Canada and Capital Punishment and Jekyll and Hyde and Virginia Woolf and the Protestant Reformation and Julius Caesar and, and, and... My poetry's grown quite a bit...I'm on my second book of it...but I still occasionally felt the call of the old playground and all the old toys. Naturally, my tastes in weird shyte and occult oddness crept in and a trenchcoater series has been the product...an LNH trenchcoater series, of course. And, naturally, focusing in on teenagers. What with Generation Y being dead and buried, Tom Russell's Teenfactor is the only teenaged net.hero series that I can think of at the moment that's around these days. And with Paul Hardy gone, I can't let Jennifer Whitson have all the occultist fun over in _Misfits_. I'll try to live up to her standards. And maybe set a few of my own. Oooh, the scandal. I really hope I made a decent attempt at a halfway interesting "Joining the LNH" story here. And I hope the characters were presented strongly, even in the dialogue and all. I hope. And I hope their interesting. I have a lot of hopes. Mostly I hope this is any good, just because it was basically written in one sitting...at least, this version was. I rewrote the opening sequences five times before I got any further. But enough about that. Dinsdale? I couldn't resist. I just couldn't. Especially after hearing rumours of Self-Righteous Preacher's demise. Disappear for a few months and look what happens! Emily and Luke are copyright 1998 to Ben Rawluk. Me. Fred's...Public Domain, last I checked. Yes? Been around forever, that one. Ultimate Ninja, even longer. Copyright to Ray Bingham, but I guess everyone still uses him, regardless. Stomper's Public Domain, too. That's tradition. Please send comments of what you thought, to email@example.com ... I can assure you they'll be greatly appreciated. Yesyesyes. Indeed.Back to the Index.