Void Ranger

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Science Fiction

Its been three hundred years since the void swallowed half the Midwestern United States. The Dark Cloud formed over the Rockies and began to spread, but no one paid much attention. It wasn't till the blood rain and the bone monsters first appeared that people began to worry. The US Government created the 607th Void Rangers to combat the threat. Now, the Void has settled; it stays where it is and the civilians know to stay far away. Few of the Void Rangers are left, but some still fight tirelessly to keep the beast inside the Void, and the Void away from the world.

“Nobody used to care about the midwest; not the bankers in New York, the traders down in California, and not even the President had much regard for us. Who cares about corn and wheat when you’ve got so many other sources of food anyway? Well, we knew our own value, and we worked tirelessly to provide an ungrateful nation with the food they needed to fuel their warmachine and their business ventures. We never complained; we led simply, happy lives and were content with knowing our own worth. It wasn’t till the borders closed and the seas were poisoned that they realized our worth. The rest of the country looked to us, and we happily provided. America couldn’t live as carelessly as it once did, but it was up to us Marshalls to ration the supply trains and we did alright. At least we were till the firestorms started. All the scientists couldn’t figure out why, even with all their money and resources, whilst we were getting scorched by impossible solar flares and whirlwinds of wildfire. There were no crops left; all the cows and sheep got carried off by wind or wolf one, and America was no longer on speaking terms with the world.” His story echoed eerily off the red walls of the canyon. His tale had wearied him, but a long drag off a smoldering stogie brought the fire back to his eyes. He snorted as a stream of green smoke escaped his lips. “Whooo-wee boy! You don’t know how hard that Centaurian smoke hits you! If you were my son, I’d let you have a puff; but I reckon your pa would bury me if I did that.”

The young boy just nodded in his saddle; he sat awkwardly as he looked out over the canyon, and his knuckles were white where he gripped the saddle even though they were standing still. He hadn’t looked at the wizened Marshall the entire time they sat there, but the old lawman didn’t seem to notice; he just kept telling his stories and smoking his cigar, content to watch the canyon. He took another puff, and the cigar was almost swallowed whole by his bushy moustache. It was like a weasel that sat upon his lip, and was about the same size. Bushy, grey, and extended far past the corners of his mouth; it was truly something to behold. When he spoke it shook like shackles on miscreant, and was only diminished by the shadow of his bulbous nose.

“Mr. Bradley, when is Mr. Hawkins comin’ back?” The young boy spoke, for the first time since they got there.

“Aww, he’ll likely be another hour or two. It’ll take that long just to make it to the bottom of the canyon; after that he’s still got to track down his quarrel. We won’t be seeing Mr. Hawkins anytime soon.” 

“There he is! I see him!”

“No you don’t.”

“I do! He’s almost here!”

“Quit lyin’ boy, or else you ain’t never comin’ on one of these excursions again.”

“No, really! Look Mr. Bradley!” The boy pleaded, and the old Marshall leaned forward in his saddle. Sure enough, a plume of dust rose from the canyon wall just beneath them. It wasn’t long before they saw the wide black brim of a cowboy hat peeking over the side of the cliff. A climbing pick bit into the rocky dirt at the cliffedge, followed by a big ol’ bowie knife gripped in black leather gloved hand. Soon enough, they saw the man to which it all belonged to clamber over the edge; he stood before them breathing in a manner which was more akin to taking a walk on the beach than scaling a two hundred foot cliff.

“Woah…” the boy said. Mr. Bradley couldn’t blame him; Hawkins was one hell of a sight. Any normal man would’ve looked inconspicuous in his attire; he wore dusty brown riding jeans and a black button up, all under a long black overcoat. His wide brimmed hat protected him from the sun, and a red scarf covered most of his face to protect him from the dust. Hawkins wasn’t any normal man though; he stood six foot three, and was a behemoth beneath all those clothes. He kept it well concealed, but the Marshall knew about the six-shooter and sawed-off shotgun Hawkins wore on his belt and he knew firsthand that they weren’t for show. His eyes were the only part that were always visible, but Bradley wished they weren’t. They were solid black, and the most intimidating part was that one never knew where he was looking. The boy seemed less intimidated than the Marshall though; maybe he just had more courage, or maybe he was just dumb. Bradley couldn’t be sure. He was sure that he wished Hawkins would close his damn eyes though.

“Why are you back so soon? You couldn’t find him?” The Marshall accused Hawkins. He said nothing; the Marshall couldn’t see the expression beneath the scarf, but he expected Hawkins didn’t have one. Nothing ever seemed to rile him.

Rather than respond, Hawkins pressed a button on the haft of his climbing pick. A mechanism inside the tool whirred to life, and it roped in the razor thin, nearly invisible wire feeding out the butt of the pick. Hawkins took a step back as the pick pulled on his weight, but he maintained good control of it. After a minute, three bloodied men came tumbling up the side of the canyon, hogtied by the invisible line. Hawkins took his knife, and cut the rope as it lost all its slack. He pressed the button again and the mechanism stopped working, before placing the pick inside his coat. The boy gasped as he caught a flash of a silver pistol; it looked massive and he thought he saw a red glow coming from somewhere, but he didn’t see it long enough to be sure. 

“Them. I got them; you didn’t mention there was three, Marshall.”

“Looks like you fared alright; there’s not a single bullet in you, is there?”

“They had no ammo; wasted it all last week when they tried to ride O’leary’s Joint. They were pretty dumb to take on that ol’ bootlegger.”

“Why do you think I haven’t yet?” The Marshall grunted. He would’ve thought it was quiet enough for Hawkins not to hear, but he knew that was never the case. There was no such thing as quiet enough for that man not to hear.

“You can put it in your books now; Lassiter McCane ain’t gonna be causing any more issues.”

Hawkins began to walk off, but Bradley called after him as he left. “I owe you one, Ranger.”

“You owe me more than one, Marshall.” Hawkins stopped, and glanced back at the boy. “You tell the Mayor he needs to fix the west wall. If he won’t listen to the Ranger that walks it, maybe he’ll listen to his own son.” The boy nodded vigorously. He tried to respond, but he couldn’t make any sound. The Ranger turned away from them before pulling his scarf down, and putting two fingers two his lips. He blew a long whistle, but no sound came out. He put his scarf back up and turned around, waiting expectantly. The mayor’s son began to look around in confusion as the word began to shake; the world would rattle, as though being knocked by something, and then it would stop. This happened three times, and then he looked up in horror as the sun turned black. A dark shape blotted out the sky, and it was falling to the Earth fast. In an instant, a black labrador the size of a house materialized before them, and almost knocked the boy off his horse from the impact. The Ranger didn’t even flinch. 

“Roxxy!” He said happily, as he reached up to pat her on the nose. It was the first time the ranger had sounded happy, or really sounded like anything at all. He clambered up her haunches, and came to sit at her shoulder blades.

“Mr. Hawkins!” The boy called out before he could go, “Do you think I could ride her?”

The Marshall never could be sure, but he almost thought he saw the Ranger smile beneath his scarf. “Maybe one day.” Hawkins responded, as he turned Roxxy to face the cliff. “And you can call me Syd.” He clicked his tongue, and Roxxy launched into the air; she leapt over the canyon with grace, and landed on the other side with ease. She bounded forward, and she and the Ranger in a leap and a cloud of dust.


Submitted: May 17, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Avalon3157. All rights reserved.

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