100 Words A Day by Hydrargentium

Well, at least 100 words — best served random….

Tag: Ranger

“There are seventeen of you in this class. I need three for a mission I can’t tell you about yet.”

Ranger was careful to keep his shoulders square, in line with his hips and his boots. His hands were clasped behind his back in the “at-ease” position.

Behind his goggles, his eyes darted left and right as he studied their reactions. All they saw were his dark lenses, impassive and inscrutable.

“The first two of you to impress me right now, I will bring along.”

Ranger very deliberately did not allow himself even a hint of smirk.

Many of the students started talking all at once, mostly to him. Though cacophonous, it was clear they were all trying to get his attention and tell him why he should choose them. He ignored them, waiting.

His didn’t wait long. From the back of the group, a thunderous clapped sent a literal shockwave through the students. Many of them staggered, and all but one moved in response, parting enough to let Ranger see who had created the sound

A short young man, broad-shoulder and athletic, but barely five feet tall, stood with his hands pressed together. The look on his face was determined, a study in concentration, but his eyes twinkled with confidence.

Ranger nodded.

“That was impressive. What’s your name?”

The confidence wavered under Ranger’s attention.

“Uh, I’m Chaz. Charles Buckholt, sir.”

Ranger pointed at Chaz, but spoke to the rest of the group.

“That’s one. Who’s number two?”

Advertisements

“Well, there you go.”

Cavalier waved his cellphone in the air.

“No signal up here. Either we’re too far away from the nearest tower, or there’s too much metal in the way, or there’s too much radio interference up here.”

He shrugged. “Or, all of the above.”

“Whatever it is, there’s no way to get anywhere down there..”

He paused, and looked meaningfully over his shoulder at the street far below.

“…in time to send the signal to stop the big boom.”

Another shrug. “At least you trie- OOF!”

Cavalier’s monologue was interrupted by Ranger hitting him with a flying tackle. Before he could react, they were both over the edge, accelerating toward the ground at almost ten metres per second, per second.

By the time they reached sixty metres per second, Ranger had locked his legs around Cavalier’s waist, grabbed the phone, and punched Cavalier in the face.

“You’re crazy,” was all Cavalier could sputter.

Without a word, Ranger stripped the silver glove off Cavalier’s right hand and tossed it aside. With a grip like a vice, he jammed Cavalier’s index finger onto the fingerprint reader on the phone.

“Ow.”

Ranger paid no heed to Cavalier’s discomfort, eyes focused on the signal indicator at top of the display.

No bars.

No bars.

Cavalier began to squirm, looking down at the rapidly-approaching street, and trying to pull his hand away from the phone.

No bars.

Ranger flexed his knees, and all the air gushed out of Cavalier in a flaccid huff. Cavalier stopped squirming.

The first bar showing signal lit up, a tiny little square of white. A moment later, the notification appeared.

|MESSAGE SENT|

Moving like a man who has only moments to live, Ranger acted. He pulled a line from his belt, slipped it around Cavalier’s chest, and hooked it to itself. Without looking, he threw his left arm out, and shot a grappling line at the Trump MegaTower, down the side of which they plummeted. The free end of the line around Cavalier’s chest was clipped to the firing mechanism, and with a flick and a kick, Ranger detached the launcher from his gauntlet and shoved Cavalier away from him.

A half second later, Ranger was guiding himself toward an empty alleyway, hanging by his harness from a black parawing. The edges of the wing fluttered in the dusky air as he leaned to one side to get a look at Cavalier.

He could just make out the blue- and silver-clad form hanging limply from the side of the Tower, about twenty stories above the ground.

Call-out opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. His eyes darted around the chaos.

“Call-out…”

Ranger hoped he wouldn’t have to do something drastic to get him to focus.

“Okay,” Call-out said, still shouting above the din, but in a more level tone, “grab my arm and don’t let go, no matter what. And if you see anyone, grab hold of them too.”

Ranger reached for Call-out, his strong fingers wrapping around the other hero’s arm just above his elbow. Moments later, everything changed.

The instant of blackness from Call-out’s jump was the only transition into the rain of glass and plaster. The stuff falling from the ceiling rattled dully on Ranger’s helmet. His HUD picked up three moving figures in close range, and Call-out was already in motion toward the two on his side. Ranger went with the motion, keeping his fingers locked on Call-out’s arm, but giving it a squeeze.

“One more!” he yelled.

Call-out, in his black body suit, was a shadowy blob in the chaos, and Ranger could just make out the motion of his other arm, reaching out to the two people nearest him. As soon as he thought it was safe to, Ranger took two strong steps in the direction of the third target, dragging Call-out and his pair along.

A moment later, Ranger shouted, “Now!”, his free hand on his target’s shoulder.

There was black, and then there was open sky. They were on a rooftop two blocks away, with two women in coveralls and a man in a suit. Ranger let go of the man.

“Clear!”

Another instant of blackness, and they were back in the destruction.

Eli rolled out of bed, sliding into his slippers as he headed for the bathroom. After a quick shower, he shaved clean using a carbon steel straight razor. Even five blades in a safety razor wasn’t close enough for his tastes. His shaving cream, though, was pedestrian: a store brand, unscented, with aloe.

Padding down the hardwood hallway, he took his favourite mug from the rack and poured the custom Arabica blend that had just finished brewing from the automated coffee maker. Timers make life so much simpler, he thought. His coffee was black, a little on the strong side, and was the only one he’d have all day.

The rest of his life was exciting enough that he didn’t need more than that.

Bowl in hand, he was just about to serve himself some granola and yoghurt, when his phone rang. It wasn’t his Eli Levstein phone, though. It was the other one.

Shoving the yoghurt back in the fridge, he scooped up the headset and hooked it on.

“Ranger.”

Eli listened for a few moments, then nodded.

“On my way. Meet you in the parking lot on Ash in 12 minutes.”

Before turning to go, he grabbed two protein bars from a basket on the counter, and dropped them in a pocket of his cargo pants. He could eat along the way.

She tilted her head with a grin and a wink.

“My name,” she answered in what he could only describe as a beautiful french accent, “is La Jongleuse.”

A moment later, she backflipped off the rooftop.

Ranger shook his head. He didn’t bother to see what happened to her — he was pretty sure she wouldn’t have done that by accident, and she didn’t seem suicidal. Instead, he tried to figure out how she had managed to get into his head and under his skin like that. It wasn’t like him to fall for a beautiful woman, no matter how charming. He ran back over his memory of the encounter, trying to notice if something changed drastically in his perceptions. Maybe she had some kind of emotion control — pheromones, perhaps?

No, he realized, it didn’t seem like it was any kind of super power. He had to admit it: he, Ranger, hardened hero, pillar of practicality, was smitten.

“This… is disturbing.”

Mason took a swig from his coffee. “Mm.”

“Who would do something like this?”

Ice-Kool rubbed his hands on his thighs. His breath condensed the humid air into small clouds that hung in front of him, and dissipated as he stood up.

Mason looked at him. “You’re asking me?”

“No, I guess I already know.” He looked around. “Think we should look for clues?”

Mason threw back the last of his coffee. “I’m not really a clue guy.”

“No, I guess that’s Ranger’s thing.” Ice-Kool made himself look back down at the bodies. “Where is Ranger, anyway?”

Mason ran his fingers through his beard.

“Looking for clues, probably.”

Solder smoke drifted up from the workbench, tracing a thin grey line into the rafters before being sucked into a nearby ventilation duct. Aside from the glow of the spotlights over the workbench, the vast warehouse was dark.

Ranger set aside the iron and inspected his work, pulling over a magnifier to confirm the connections on the board. He flipped the little device over a couple of times, comparing it against the schematics showing on a nearby tablet. Satisfied, he set the piece in a rack marked with hand-lettered labels, and pushed his work goggles up off his face.

Before reaching for his thermos full of tea, he paused to move an object from the edge of his main work area and up onto a high shelf at the edge of his reach. It was a short cylinder, made of brass, with cleanly milled threads on one end. The length of the tube was deeply etched with arcane markings, each line carefully inlaid with some sort of matte black substance.

As he poured tea into the thermos’ cup, Ranger looked around, as if noticing some things for the first time in a long time. There was a small green marble with a chip out of it, a blackened arrow fletched with long pink feathers, and an empty wooden box with “Dayton Music” printed on one side. He saw a large shark’s tooth, fully 6 inches long, and a rubber-corked Erlenmeyer flask containing a pearly blue powder, and a hot pink 1/100th scale Statue of Liberty. He took a sip of his tea.

Tapping a couple of icons on his tablet, he watched as the lights came on throughout the warehouse, one section at a time. Under the stark illumination, he spied a large stuffed eagle hanging from the rafters, and the remains of an accordion that looked like it had been chewed up and spit out on top of a pile of packing crates. Further out, there was a full-size Lambeosaurus skeleton, and a red-and-yellow 10 meter rocket with the nose cone blasted off.

And this was just a small sampling.

“I really have to do something with these trophies,” he mused, rubbing the back of his head.

Clouds. I’m in the clouds.

There was something not right about the whole thing, but Ranger couldn’t put his finger on it. There was a loud, persistent noise, and his hair kept whipping into his face. That was odd, but there was something else.

Noticing the light around him changing, he focused again on the clouds in front of him. In front. Of him.

Yes, that’s right. And they seem to be getting further away.

Suddenly, Ranger knew exactly where he was, and his heart jumped from languid to pounding from one beat to the next. He fought to keep his breathing under control, and forced himself not to start flailing his limbs.

Ranger was not the kind of man who panicked easily. But finding yourself suddenly in free fall, plummeting out of the cloud layer, could make even a corpse feel a flutter of distress.

Ice-Kool sputtered, a minor sleet storm falling to the street below.

“What the hell IS THAT!?”

By the time Ranger took his eyes away from the action, Ice-Kool’s skin had turned frost-bite blue, and was coated with a quarter inch of clear ice. Given the circumstances, Ranger didn’t think his preparation unjustified.

“Looks like a giant fire-breathing shrew to me.” He shrugged, unshouldering his #1 rifle. “Could be a vole, though. I’m not up on that stuff.”

“What the hell is it doing here?!”

Ranger aimed his weapon streetward and peered through the scope.

“By the looks of it, finding out if Hummers are edible.”

He looked sidelong at Ice-Kool while he locked his underslung grenade launcher in place and loaded a canister with an orange stripe.

“You should head down and deal with the beastie. I’ll take care of the thieves.”

Raising his rifle to his shoulder again, Ranger squeezed off a shot. It ricocheted off the Hummer’s hood, causing the getaway driver to dive for cover instead of running away.

“Ice-Kool.” Ranger’s voice was suddenly sharp and commanding.

“Go. Now.”

“What’s going on down there?”

Ranger peered through his goggles for a few more moments, before shoving them up onto his forehead.

“Break and enter. In the jewelry store on the corner. They’re in there now, except for the driver in the Hummer.”

“Thieves in a Hummer?” Ice-Kool whistled. “That’s a serious ride for B & E.”

“It’ll go anywhere, and it’s hard to stop. Probably stolen anyway.”

“Hm. So, we going down there?” Ice-Kool’s hands started to glow, pale blue and shimmering.

“Nuh. I don’t like it. Something’s wrong. We’re gonna wait a minute.”

“Wait?! What for? Let’s-”

The sound of bursting asphalt interrupted Ice-Kool’s inquiry. Ranger looked down at the street, and then pointed.

“That.”