Unexpected Heroes

How three geeks saved a young woman's life...sort of. A retrospective on The Lone Gunmen.
May 30, 2008
Everybody's got heroes. Whether they acknowledge that fact or not is up to them, but it is a fact.

Everybody everywhere has heroes. The people we strive to emulate; who set the examples for the way we live our daily lives.

Myself included.

I've been doing an awful lot of thinking lately. About the past, about the future, about life in general and who I am and why I'm here and what makes me me.

(I think the introspection is brought on by this 'growing older' thing I keep hearing so much about...and the 'maturity' that comes with it. Some kind of package deal, they keep telling me).

Regardless of the whys and wherefores of my sudden need for self examination, it's making me face things and look at events and come to terms.

Some good, some bad, some really, really bad...

There's nothing quite so terrible as facing the things you dislike about yourself and acknowledging them...but in examining the things that make up who I am; the damages, the repairs, the parts that are healing and the parts that are still raw; I've come across something that gives me pause.

The men I've chosen as my heroes.

Not my idols, not my obsessions. My honest to God heroes.

The men that I respect and admire more than anyone else who has ever walked the face of the Earth.

Men who changed my life's path.

Men that made me who I am right now and remind me of what I aspire to be.

Of course, as I've already stated, everyone has their heroes.

But not everyone's heroes are fictional.

Not everyone has the course of their life--their lifestyle, their very identity--altered by men who don't really exist.

I did.

As sad as that sounds, I did.

Three television characters became a rock to which I clung during a very stormy part of my life, because there was nothing else solid to hang onto.

That probably sounds incredibly shallow and out of touch with reality.

I know it does. When there are so many real people worthy of my admiration and respect, I chose fictional men (or perhaps they chose me...I've never been quite clear on that).


Well...it's a long story.

But then again, I've never known how to relate a life changing event as anything except a long story. It's like a prerequisite. "Life Changing Event=Long Story".

So you might want to pull up a chair, snuggle into a blanket and get comfortable for this...

I was fifteen when it happened.

Well, fourteen going on fifteen anyways. Early, early 2001.

It was that year that I discovered the X-Files.

Or perhaps 'rediscovered' would be a more appropriate term. I'd seen the show before, of course; even watched it with my mother when it first debuted, but it was in 2001 that it grabbed me and refused to let go.

Even then, it was the reruns that got me and reeled me in.

And what clinched it, was The Lone Gunmen.

Although I didn't know that at the time. I hadn't even bothered to learn their names at that point.

(Well, I remembered Frohike's, but his moniker is rather hard to forget.)

I didn't know anything about them; I just knew that they were the three geeks who brightened every episode they were in and made me smile fondly at them against my will.

I started re-watching episodes just because they were in them, where I ordinarily disliked seeing the same old thing again and again. I just couldn't get enough of them.

A few months passed and then, joy of joys--

The Lone Gunmen got their own television show.

This event coincided with my getting the internet access in my home for the very first time.

It was these two events that caused "Lydia" to cease to be and "Techie" to be born.

But this, like every birth, was a slow process.

I waited anxiously for the new show to debut and in the meantime, I started poking around online, trying to learn everything I possibly could about computers. How they worked, what languages they spoke, what hacking was...

Then the show premiered.

I taped the first episode, careful to avoid recording any commercials and in the week that followed (as I waited impatiently for the next installment) I proceeded to watch and re-watch and re-watch it again; drinking in everything about The Gunmen that I possibly could.

The way they spoke, the way they interacted, the way they thought...

Frohike, the old curmudgeon, became my favorite immediately.

I wouldn't realize until much later that this was probably because he shared so many personality traits with my own beloved Grandfather; at the time, I just knew I liked him best.

And not in that 'I want to smooch him' way, but in the 'I wish I was related to him' way. I would have been proud to be a Frohike.

The series progressed, the characters developed and new ones were introduced; along the way, I learned every line and every quirk and found that I wanted to grow up to be just like them.

It was their integrity that appealed to me. Their fearlessness and idealism in the face of adversity and impossible odds.

(Their ability to put up with Jimmy where I probably would have murdered him.)

Week after week, every episode was taped, and soon I discovered a discussion group online for the show.

I became even more deeply entrenched and my very first online persona came into being. "LunerAngelicX".

Poor thing was everything you'd expect of a fourteen year old girl. Rather ashamed to admit to being her now, but it's part of this pesky honesty thing.

In that guise I learned to code html and the inner workings of the hacking community and made my first online 'friends'.

And then I ruined my reputation by getting all childish on a message board when no one was on my side and decided to create someone to be on my side.

(Like I said, typical, immature teenage behavior.)

So, BiteMeTechie came into being.

(I hereby ashamedly admit to kinda stealing the handle. The web mistress of the Frohike Liberation Organization had an e-mail address that was '[email protected]', which I thought sounded way cool when smushed together)

And damn if Techie wasn't cooler than Luner.

Granted, they were both me, but as Luner I was...immature. Whiney and in need of attention. As Techie, I wasn't.

As Techie, I wasn't afraid to be who I really was because I wasn't worried about what people thought of me. Luner had a reputation to protect; Techie was just my disposable back-up, whom I used to vent my frustrations honestly and bluntly with a 'screw you if you don't like it, I'm entitled to my opinion the same as you are' attitude.

Luner was worried about speaking her mind too loudly and pissing people off; Techie didn't give a shit.

And then everyone liked Techie better.

Hell, I liked Techie better.

Because she was really me without the fear of rejection and people liked the real me...a me that I was used to hiding--not only online, but in real life as well.

"Luner" disappeared from sight shortly after this realization never to be heard from again.

And not a single soul mourned her. Not even me.

A couple of blissful months passed during which I learned everything I could about hacking and programming and conspiracy theories. I lived and breathed all things Gunmen.

I watched the show faithfully, taping every episode, building my first (absolutely craptacular) website devoted to it.

All was right with the world. I was following in Frohike's footsteps and then, the unthinkable happened.

Fox pulled the plug.

Just yanked it right out of the wall and killed the show.

Crushed? Devastated? Angry as hell?

Why yes, I was all those things.

We gunfen shouted and railed and wrote angry letters and sent postcards and rallied around.
There was even talk of a march on Washington D.C. with VW busses, if I remember correctly.

But our righteous indignation at being cut off from our beloved Gunmen was cut short one day that fall.

September Eleventh happened.

And it hit way too close to home.

Months before, the very first episode of The Lone Gunmen aired--it's plot centered around a conspiracy to crash a plane into the World Trade Center.

I don't think my lungs have ever actually emptied completely of air until that precise moment because it felt like my chest had caved in.

I'd watched that episode at least three dozen times and now here it was being played out on the news with a much less happy ending.

The whole world shattered that week, as it is wont to do when a generation defining event occurs in history, and suddenly there were flags everywhere and lost looks on faces on the street and everyone was so shaken because no one had seen it coming.

Not even those of us who had watched the pilot saw it coming. It was one of those 'what ifs' like every other conspiracy theory on TV that had ever been written.

But this was real. Real.

And for me, this made all of the words that the Gunmen had ever spoken more real too. The silent mourning that was everywhere and the pulling together was personified by the idealism of those three men.

While everyone else watched the news, I watched the Gunmen.

Again and again and again, burning every word into my brain until I could recite episodes backwards and forwards.

I guess it's how my mind chose to cope with the fact that the USA wasn't as powerful as I'd always believed and we could be just as easily crippled as anyone else.

In those hours that I spent in the flickering light of my television, I realized why I latched onto the Gunmen so tightly.

These men represented everything I wanted to be. Their ideals and mine were the same, I just hadn't understood that yet. They were hope, they were integrity, they were good men in a world full of bad ones...

They were the underdogs who faced the odds and won anyway.

A picture of them was quickly photocopied and tacked up on my bedroom wall as a reminder.

It stayed there for a couple of months.

And then I got sick.

I just woke up one morning, stumbled to the bathroom and was sick.

I sweated, I shook, I threw up--

The most excruciating pain I'd ever even conceived of was everywhere and nowhere and in every place in between.

And then fifteen minutes later, it was gone. Just...gone. Like it'd never been there before.

I thought it was food poisoning from the hot dog I'd had for dinner the night before and dismissed it as a one time deal.

It wasn't.

It happened again.

And again.

And again.

It happened for weeks; going to doctors, going to emergency rooms...

I can clearly recall having my blood pressure taken during one of those fits and the numbers were just outrageous. My pulse was at 130.

I remember that because the display was right there and the way the face of the technician turned green at the sight with a 'That can't be right'.

He ran it again and it was still high, but nowhere near 'she's about to have a stroke' level.

They carted me off to a room where I promptly passed out from exhaustion and pain and awoke feeling as normal as ever.

Everyone was baffled.

"Send her for tests."

Several more weeks of appointments followed and still no one could tell me what the hell was happening to me.

My photo of the Gunmen took up residence in my coat pocket.

I don't even know what possessed me to fold it up and take it with me the first time, but it stayed with me at all times. Absurd as it sounds, having them nearby made me feel safer. Lent some normalcy to the fact I was seemingly dying and nobody knew why.

I started losing weight. A lot of weight. When it's hard to keep food down, that tends to happen. I got pale and gaunt and weak because I wasn't getting enough nutrients and it was starting to show.

Not too long a time later, someone got the bright idea to send me to a gastroenteroligst...

"What's the matter with these people?! It's your GALLBLADDER! Are they blind?! You're not making up these sudden fits of agony, you're passing gallstones one at a time!"

"They said that can't be it...I'm only fifteen."

"That is what's wrong with you and it's killing you because your idiot pediatrician refused to see what was right in front of his face because he deemed it 'impossible'."

A week of the proper tests followed.

It was deemed I needed surgery.


Another terrifying few days later I was admitted to the hospital.

The picture of the Gunmen came with me...and it stayed with me until I was carted off to pre-op.

I got it back after post-op.

I was then informed that if it'd been just a few more days, the thing would have ruptured and killed me for sure.

I had cut it very close.

And then, I proceeded to cut it even closer that night after surgery when I fell asleep.

When I came to, I had a tube in my nose and everyone looked at me like I'd just been snatched from death's gaping jaws.

There'd been some kind of mix-up and I'd been given an extra dose of Demerol that I wasn't supposed to have. Apparently, I'd been hovering dangerously close to comatose for a few hours during the night, but was now 'out of the woods'.

Damn if I hadn't managed to be the underdog who defied the odds--not once, but twice.

If at all possible, The Gunmen became even dearer to me.

They stayed that way throughout my recovery (which took much less time than I would have thought), keeping me going and then...

They were snatched away once again.

One Sunday night in the spring, I watched in horror as they died before my eyes, giving up their lives for countless others; cementing their place in my heart as true heroes.

I watched the episode as it aired, all the way to it's bitter, bitter end.

And I managed to hold it together until I could get out of the room.

I collapsed in the bathroom for a completely different reason than I had months before.

I wept.

I shook and rocked and cried as if my best friend had just died in my arms.

They were gone. Just...completely gone. There'd be no others like them, there'd be no more of them to watch, no more words of wisdom and hope to soak up and cling to.

It felt like everything that was good and decent in the world died with them.

And I was inconsolable for three solid days.

I know it sounds ridiculous. I know it sounds insane.

But the legacy they left with me was much deeper than the sum of what they were--mere television characters.

First they'd been inspiration to a young girl with an interest in computers; then they'd been a symbol of idealism and integrity when the world seemed to lack both; and most importantly of all, to a terrified teenager staring death in the face, they'd been a light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

In short, they became what I suppose I'd always known they were--

My heroes.

And three more influential men in my life there have never been.

Nor will there be again.

And I'm okay with that.

More than that--I'm proud of it.


BiteMeTechie is a professional freelance writer, published poet, minor fanfiction celebrity and proud comic book afficianado/action figure collector. When not writing articles for great places like RetroJunk, she writes comic books and spends far more time pondering questions like "Why does everyone in the DC universe have blue eyes?" and "How come there's no Evil Dead 4 yet?" than is probably healthy. Also, she's proudly googleable...and equally proud that she knows 'googleable' is not, in fact, a real word.
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