LNH: Lone Boy & Never Lad Special Edition #1
ben.rawluk at gmail.com
Wed Feb 5 20:59:49 PST 2020
LONE BOY & NEVER LAD SPECIAL EDITION
"Probably a hallucination"
By Ben Rawluk
On his first day with the Legion of Net.Heroes, Calvin Munro sat in a row with seven other new net.heroes and listened to Doc Stomper - *the* Doc Stomper - tell them they'd get used to the transmat beam after a couple trips. Calvin is reasonably sure he was lying. Calvin is this close to giving up on the transmat altogether and taking public transit instead - but who takes a bus to save the world?
Right now he's steadying himself against a street light outside a dive bar in the Shimbleshanks while dry-heaving from the sudden dislocation from the peaceful beeps of the LNHQ Monitor Room to an eerily silent cobblestone street.
The only thing he can hear is someone shouting inside the bar. He should have expected that. He wobbles when he stands up, and outright yelps when something hits the glass of the front window and a figure careens through it, slamming right into the mailbox down on the curb. He lurches for the street light all over again.
Calvin eyes up the heap. He knows without looking who it is, because it's always going to be him. It's always going to be Max. "Lone Boy," Calvin says, because this is a mission and on missions you use codenames. "You alive?"
There is a groan. "Calvin?"
"Stomper sent me," he says, like he needs an excuse. "Someone called in a brawl, and I hadn't seen you in a while..." Officially, they're on probation and Stomper expects them to stick together, look out for each other. Well. Stomper expects him to keep *Max* in line.
Max grunts this time, sitting up abruptly. His eyes are glowing red.
Calvin reaches out to help him up, their fingers threading together. He knows they look ridiculous, even with his red and blue tights, or the layers of thrift shop clothes Max has on under that long plaid coat. Calvin has those big honking ears and is like a foot taller than Max, a trash-talking hedgehog of a man. "Looks like a black eye," Calvin says, crowding up against Max and tilting his head back to examine him. Probably a little too close for two net.heroes in the middle of a professional situation. Guess they're going to be on probation forever. "At least I don't have to ask what happened."
"You know I'm compelled by a mystical force to seek out a dive bar during my off-hours."
"You say that like it's a super-power and not a warning sign for alcoholism, Lone Boy."
Max reaches up to encircle Calvin's wrists and pull his hands away from his face. He runs a tongue over his fangs. They're still standing too close. "Don't think you realize the codenames thing isn't quite as hot as you think it is, Never Lad."
Calvin rolls his eyes. "You know, I could stop you from getting into these situations with my power, remember?" He says it but he smiles, because they both know he isn't going to do that. Calvin is very careful about not using his super-power on Max, not after the first time. Even when the thing living inside his chest is whispering to him. Max sags a little against him but then the sound of something - a motor, maybe - spills out through the shattered window. They both look over and Calvin grips Max's shoulders. "Do you maybe want to tell me who you got into a fight with, now?"
That's when they see her. A tall, as tall as Calvin, with silver hair shaved. Eyes behind dark sunglasses. Cropped black jacket over a white, white bodysuit. He recognizes her even without the flaming, spectral chainsaw. She reminds him of the Terminator, but maybe she's always reminded him of the Terminator. He still feels like that, even though he hasn't seen her in three years. "Geri?"
Calvin's jaw tightens. Three years and she still knows how to push his buttons.
Max clears his throat. "So I found your sister."
"Gerund Girl," she says, glaring at him. The chainsaw begins to dissolve, flames becoming embers becoming nothing. She peers at his tights. "Why are you dressed like a net.hero?"
"Because I *am* a net.hero?"
"This has to be fake. This has to be another hallucination." She squints at Max. "But then what are you doing here? I think I beat you up once. Aren't you one of Boss Emoji's minions?"
Max crosses his arms. The vein is visible on the side of his head. He won't look at Calvin, carries that familiar mix of anger and humiliation in his face. "Angry Face," he says. Max hates when it comes up, that he used to be a net.villain's henchman. "I'm reformed."
"Geri," Calvin says, stepping in between them. "You've been missing for *three years*."
"Don't call me that."
"I'll call you what I want, c…" Geri's voice dies in her throat and Calvin tries not to smile. "What did you do?" She sniffs the air and he knows she's clocked him because the angry blossoms on her face. "Logodemon." She straightens up. "You summoned a logodemon and bonded with it? Why did you think that was a good idea, c... Calvin?"
"You were missing." He breathes out and now it is his turn to lean; Max snakes an arm around his waist. "The power of the negation verb might not be as flashy as the chainsaw effect..."
"You're meddling in ancient powers, Calvin!"
"So are you!"
"Yes, but I'm..." She bites off the rest of her sentence but he can guess it was about being better at it than he is. She turns and focuses her attention on Max, like that's going to defuse the situation. "So what are you calling yourself these days, Angry Face?" Every i-n-g she says tastes like copper.
"You call yourself Lone Boy? But hang around a super-team with like a thousand members? Okay."
"Well, I wouldn't say I was officially a member…"
"Leave him alone, Geri."
Max crosses his arms and steps back a few feet. He breathes out his nostrils in short, sharp bursts. Like a bull. His eyes gleam red. "I just wanted a quiet drink," he says, as much to himself as to Calvin. He is working on controlling his anger, on channelling it; he sees Special Bonding Boy a couple times a week to talk through his super-powered intimacy issues. "I'm just sitting up there with a couple shots of Jack in front of me and suddenly a friggin' portal is opening up and friggin' Gerund Girl is coming at me..."
"Well, the last time I saw you, you were a net.villain."
"Hey, I'm on a genuine redemption arc."
Calvin presses fingers against his temples and rubs. "Geri," he says. People are peering through the window and the door. People are starting to wander by, slowing down to rubberneck. "I told you. Don't be an asshole to my boyfriend." His mouth tastes like sparklers when he says the word don't.
Geri recoils this time, hand coming up, clearly ready to summon the chainsaw effect again. "Boyfriend," she says. She sounds dumbfounded, not sarcastic. "You're dating him." She sounds like she wants to be confrontational but everything she says sounds like a bland statement of fact. "That is really annoying, c... Calvin."
"Don't worry," Max says. He grins, shuffling right up to Geri and grinning up at her. "It'll only last five minutes, and then you can gleefully go back to trying to kill me."
"Unless I say never."
"Well, whatever it is, I hate it." She waves a hand in front of her, trying to dispel invisible smoke. "If you had to join the bloody Legion of Net.Heroes, you didn't have to summon a logodemon. You're tall, you could have been Stature Lad."
"There's already a Stature Queen."
"Of course there bloody is."
Max snorts. "Uh, you have a giant ING on the back of your black leather jacket."
Geri grinds her teeth, probably trying to come up with a work-around to Calvin's power. She sighs and closes her eyes. "This has to be a hallucination," she says. "My brother having a logodemon and joining the LNH and dating a henchman is definitely the kind of thing the House would come up with for me." She drags her fingers down over her cheeks and pulls.
"What are you talking about? What house?"
"The House of Spoilers. Or Speculation. One of the two. How long did you say I gone for?"
Something shifts in her face, like she can't decide whether to be disgusted or pleased by that. "It felt like fifty," she says. "You never know if what you're looking at is the future or just, like a theory."
"Is it a threat?"
"The house. Houses."
She gestures, a smooth, disdainful twist of her wrist. "I don't know."
People aren't just passing by anymore; they're starting to congregate, extras in search of a fight scene. Calvin pinches the bridge of his nose through his blue domino mask. "I better call this in," Calvin says. Stomper will want to know about the bar fight, and maybe he knows something about the Houses. He fishes his communicator out of his utility belt and notices that Max has crossed his arms, is gnawing on his split lip and looking anxious. "I'm not going to say anything about you getting into another fight."
Max grins, hissing when his split lip cracks. "Thank you, dear."
"Yeah, yeah." He looks between them. "Both of you behave."
There is a moment where they look like they're going to argue but both stay quiet in the end and watch him stalk off, weaving his way through the accumulating crowd so he can have something approximating a private conversation. There are enough people milling about, watching him, that he feels compelled to stand there with his communicator in hand and says, "Don't eavesdrop," loud enough that everybody turns as one and faces away from him.
He knows he shouldn't do that, shouldn't use his super-power on civilians, but he just needs a minute to process everything. God. They're probably going to make up talk to Special Bonding Boy too. He holds up his communicator and presses the button. "Never Lad to LNHQ," he says. He wishes he could just check in with a text, but Stomper is still so old school about everything. "Checking in from the Shimbleshanks."
There is a long moment when all he gets is static, but then he hears, "Bar fight over, Never Lad?"
He looks back across to the dive bar, which doesn't even have a novelty sign. Max and Geri are keeping at least four feet between them, avoiding eye contact. Max's past isn't some big secret; they talked about it during the five-hour stake-out that Max considers their first date, seeing as how he bought Calvin dinner in the middle of it. He knew about Max being a villain and knew about his history with Geri but he didn't think - okay, maybe he didn't really think about what would happen if they found Geri. "Yes," he says, voice hoarse. "It's taken care of."
"And Lone Boy was in the middle of it?"
"I have to put this in the official monitor report," Stomper says. And then, more quietly he asks, "How was it this time? The transmat?"
"I mean, I didn't puke."
"And we found my sister."
Stomper sighs, again, louder this time. It's not like the LNH had never heard of his sister when he showed up on their doorstep looking for help. Being on a heroic quest had actually helped his application, apparently. "Good," he grinds out eventually. "That's great."
Across the street, Geri and Max are talking again. Is that good?
"Do you think she could stay in the guest quarters tonight?"
"You're really supposed to submit paperwork for that with advanced notice…"
Geri and Max are now yelling at each other. How long ago did he cast those spells?
"She might be more comfortable in a hotel instead, actually."
They're hitting each other now and his sister is swinging around a flaming chainsaw. "You know what, Doc? I'm going to need to call you back."
"Do you need back-up?"
Calvin isn't really paying attention. "Call you back," he says, and then he's pulling the communicator away from his ear while rushing forward over the cobblestones. "Hey," he says, rolling his eyes. "Don't…"
Still. Could have gone worse.
Never Lad (Calvin Munro), Gerund Girl (Geri Munro) and Lone Boy (Max Mitchell) created by me, copyright 2020.
Doctor Stomper created by T. M. Neeck.
Special Bonding Boy created by wREam.
The Shimbleshanks created by Saxon Brenton.
The Houses of Spoilers and Speculation created by me.
A feel a bit like the LNH author from Brigadoon, emerging from the waves every once in a while. These characters have been rolling around in my head in various forms for a bit and they finally forced their way out. Gerund Girl dates back a couple years, and was in the first issue of that FLASH! anthology series. Never Lad has been percolating for a couple months. Lone Boy basically wrote himself? Hopefully it isn't terrible!
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