It was dark, the sort of cloying dark that wraps itself around you and tries to smother you. Rain pattered down from the sky, without even the decency to pour. Huddled in a bus shelter, six stooped forms gathered themselves into a close group, packed tight for warmth.
“Right,” Francis said, “now what? Because I can’t, you know, see any crime.”
“Impatient much?” Adelaide replied.
“I don’t even know what that means,” Francis sighed.
“I hate to admit it,” Emma said, “but he’s got a point. Not much is happening. It’s raining. I’m cold.”
“Wait, you’re cold?” Adelaide looked at her, “you do know how silly that sounds?”
“I don’t do the fire thing in such a small space,” Emma squinted into the rain, “there’s a liability to burn people.”
“I’ve never fought crime like this before,” Rachel said, her screen face the only source of light, “it should be a novel experience.”
“You get over it,” Emma shrugged.
There was a silence. A bus rolled past.
“I -uh- I hate to complain,” said Lydia. She had been gazing wistfully out into the darkness of the night, “but I’m a little afraid of -uh- the dark, so -uh- if there’s no good reason for us being here, I’d like to -uh- leave. Please?”
“Really?” Adelaide glanced over at her, “Sorry about that. I was given a tip off by Agent Price that to wait here tonight might be a good idea, that’s all.”
“Right,” Lydia nodded. She looked out into the dark again then turned back to the comforting light of Rachel’s screen, “Could you -uh- turn up your ambience or something Rachel?”
Rachel nodded and her screen became a warmer yellow, filling the space with an ambient glow. Her ‘face’ changed to a large, pixellated log fire.
There was another pause.
“Listen,” Lee said, “I was thinking. Shouldn’t we have names?”
“What?” Adelaide looked at him, “Lee, we have names. I just said yours.”
“No,” Lee shook his head, “code names. Like spies or heroes out of films and stuff.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Emma said, rolling her eyes.
“What do you mean?” Rachel said, “Like what?”
“Well,” Lee replied, scratching his chin, “let’s see. I could be… hmm… Deep Thought.”
“Deep Thought,” Francis laughed, “that’s a weird enough name to be you. I’m presuming it’s some kind of literary reference, in which case it’s perfect.”
“You bet,” Lee nodded, “come on, it’s cool. We could all do it.”
“Ha ha,” Emma snorted, “no.”
“Well if you won’t do it yourself,” Lee raised his eyebrows, “you can be… Flame-y… Flame… Combustible Lass!”
“There is no way in hell that I am going under the name of Combustible Lass,” Emma said, “just to make that clear.”
“Got it,” Adelaide nodded, “so now Combustible Lass has her name, who’s next?”
“Oh not you too,” Emma sighed.
“Ooh,” Rachel raised a hand with a click and whirr of joints, “me next! Me next! Do me Lee!”
“Right,” Lee nodded, “will you be insulted if your code name involves the fact that you are a…”
“Cyborg?” Rachel said, “Yes. I hope you see me as more than just a machine Lee.”
“Right,” Lee grimaced, “so -erm- let’s see…”
“I’m joking,” Rachel’s face flashed to a grinning emoji, “call me whatever you like.”
“Oh, right,” Lee nodded, “right. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to tell. So you could be… well, actually, ‘the machine’ is pretty cool.”
“The machine,” Rachel put her head to one side, “the machine, the machine, the machine… I like it!”
“Great,” Lee looked over at Lydia, “what about you, Lydia? ‘The lizard?’ No… too derivative. ‘Reptile?’ Maybe?”
“Oh,” Lydia looked up, “sorry, I wasn’t really concentrating. What are we talking about.”
“Code names,” Francis said, “you need a code name. What’s it going to be?”
“Hm,” Lydia mused, glad of something to take her mind off the shadows that surrounded them, “what about… well… I don’t always like being known as ‘that lizard girl’ but I suppose that’s how everyone thinks of me. What about Saurian?”
“Nice,” Lee grinned, “that’s exactly what I’m talking about. What about you Francis, dear adopted brother of mine? What name would suit you best?”
“Phantom?” Francis suggested, “wraith? Spectre? Shade? Night-walker?”
“Remember you are but a man,” Lee said with a rye smile.
“Butter man?” Francis stared at him, “I’m a phaser, man. I walk through things. Why the hell would I be called Butter man?”
“I was just reminding you that you are a simple human being,” Lee said, “and perhaps a less grandiose name might be more fitting.”
“Says the guy who chose Deep Thought!”
“I understood that reference,” said Lydia quietly.
“Listen,” Adelaide raised her hands, “before we sink deeper into the nerdy bog of no return, may I make a suggestion? Francis could be called something simple, like Ghost.”
There was a silence while the others considered this. Eventually Francis nodded.
“It’s not bad,” he admitted, mulling it over, “I suppose. Sure. I’m ‘Ghost’ then. What about you, Adelaide? You don’t have a power that we can take a name from.”
“Well,” Rachel did the closest approximation to a shrug that she could achieve, “she’s clearly the leader. Maybe that could be the code name. Just The Leader.”
“Huh,” Adelaide said, “sure. That’s cool. I can go with that. I’m The Leader.”
For a second it looked like Emma was about to say something, but eventually she smirked and settled herself back to leaning against a wall.
“That’s that then,” Lee said, “we have our code names. From now on we are, in no particular order: The Leader, Ghost, Saurian, Deep Thought, The Machine and, perhaps most importantly, Combustible Lass.”
Emma put her face in her palm.
“Oh. My. Goodness.” She said, “You know what? Fine. I am Combustible Lass.”
“Combustible Lass!” Lee, Francis and Adelaide punched the air simultaneously and grinned at each other.
There was a long silence as they stared out at the darkness. Eventually Lydia spoke.
“Exactly why are we still here?”
“Honestly?” Adelaide murmured, “I have no idea.”