I was conceptualizing my Rangers for Wasteland 2 and ended up writing this little intro piece. Although they are cartoonish, it's helped me get much stronger senses of their personalities. This was just written for me, but what the hell, someone else might enjoy it. Here you go.
The tinny sounds of prewar country music shrill out from an old CD player in the converted filing room of what was formerly a prison. This is the spartan office of Ranger Colonel ELLERY FENK. Prewar and handmade maps of Nevada adorn the walls, and personnel and project files litter the desk. FENK, a good military man gone to fat, sits at the desk, smoking and looking sleepily out the window. A terse double knock sounds and the door opens. Enter Ranger Lieutenant MELVILLE "SLIM" CHANCE, a lanky, ungroomed, nondescript fellow dressed in clothes bleached the colorless shades of the desert.
FENK: (sitting up smartly) Ah, come in, Lieutenant. Sit down.
Neither man salutes. Over the course of the next few lines, CHANCE eventually eases himself into a chair.
FENK: Thank you for responding so promptly to my call. How are things out on scout?
CHANCE (mildly annoyed): Same as ever. Anything new, I'd've radioed in. That what you called me back to talk about, El?
FENK: No. No, it isn't.
CHANCE stares lazily at FENK for a few moments.
FENK: Lieutenant, we're sending you out West.
CHANCE: To Beetle Ridge? Ain't nothing happening out there.
FENK: West, Lieutenant. California.
CHANCE (blank-eyed): All right. Let's hear it.
FENK: A man from there made it out here a few days ago. Desperate for help. God knows how he made it all that way in the condition he's in. Tells a story about aliens or somesuch, come to destroy humanity.
CHANCE: (smiling broadly) Bullshit.
FENK: Now, I don't give it any credence, mind. But we all know that meteors were coming down just before the Big One in '98. And this feller was burned by some kind of weapon I never seen before.
CHANCE: I want to talk to him.
FENK: Now, that ain't gonna do you any good. Doc Heads has the guy on so many painkillers he can scarce remember his name.
CHANCE: I want to talk to him.
FENK: Suit yourself, for all the good it'll do ya. But whether you believe his story or not, you're going out West. Something is out there. You leave in a week.
CHANCE: Got my gear ready. Can leave tomorrow.
FENK: Sure, but we gotta get your team equipped.
CHANCE (annoyed again): Team? Hell.
FENK: You got a problem, Lieutenant?
CHANCE: I travel faster alone.
FENK: Maybe, but once you get there you're gonna need help. We don't want a man to take a quick look and come running back. We need to establish a presence out there. And to be honest, you get hit with whatever this weapon is, we need somebody to tell the tale.
CHANCE (nodding): Fair enough. Rodriguez?
FENK: Rodriguez is out on talks with the Cyba Jerks, and you know it.
CHANCE: Reno? Heads?
FENK: Heads is too old to travel, and Reno's too dead.
CHANCE (shocked): What?
FENK: Neobats got him couple weeks ago.
CHANCE: Shit. Well, who then?
FENK: Gonna be dangerous.
CHANCE scowls at FENK as the music continues to play. Deliberately, FENK gets up and shuts it off, then sits back down. Distantly, the heavy sound of stone on stone can be heard. Soon enough CHANCE puts it together.
CHANCE: You gotta be kidding!
FENK: Think about it. New superweapon. Who has the best shot at surviving a run-in with these guys, whatever they are?
CHANCE: (thinks for another moment) OK, I guess if I got some kinda alien death ray pointed at me, Drooz is the one man I'd want between me and it. But El, the man's ... well ... how'm I gonna control him? Hell, how'm I gonna feed him?
FENK: I'm not worried. Your bushcraft is second to none. You'll keep him fed and watered.
CHANCE: (nods towards the window) What's he doing out there, anyway?
FENK: Rebuilding the southern wall.
CHANCE: Yeah? What happened to the southern wall?
FENK: Nothing. I ordered him to dismantle it and rebuild it five feet farther out. God knows what he's capable of if I let those hands get idle.
CHANCE: So how the hell am I supposed to keep him on task in the field?
Another silence, longer this time.
CHANCE: No. No! That bitch is not coming with me!
FENK: Think it through, Slim.
CHANCE: I don't care! I won't have that twisto under my command. Besides, she doesn't travel without big sister. But ... oh, of course, Daisy's going too, 'cause I can't rightly disarm no alien death ray.
FENK: Now you're getting it.
The "prison" machine shop, a dank, windowless basement. The place is a complete mess, with mechanical and electronic parts everywhere, scattered on tables, hanging on hooks, and strewn on the floor. In addition to an automobile engine, a fuel pump, and a great deal of radio equipment, several weapons in various states of repair can be seen, including a defunct Proton Ax and parts of a Meson Cannon. Ranger Specialist DAISY SWAN is here, hard at work. DAISY is a vibrant girl, lightly dressed in riotously colorful clothes, carelessly smeared with the black grime of the workshop. Ranger Sergeant BERT SPANGLER lounges nearby, watching DAISY as she clatteringly dismantles and reassembles a small metal box with many parts.
DAISY: I tell you, Bert, I'm so close ... I can FEEL it!
SPANGLER: Listen, Daisy, I'm sent down here to give-
DAISY: But it doesn't make SENSE. Every part seems to fit ... I can't get this timing mechanism to work, but what is it for?
SPANGLER: Daisy, you got orders to move out west-
DAISY: Now, I told you, right? This knob regulates the operational temperature of this heating element here ...
SPANGLER: (walks towards her, annoyed) Now, Daisy, you got to get packed! Fenk is sending you out-
DAISY: But the entire system is closed! It only heats the inside of the box itself! No parts missing inside ... nothing comes out ... What IS this?
SPANGLER: (grabs the work away from her) Daisy! Y'all pay attention now! (A few pieces drop off the workbench and clatter to the floor.) You are going to California!
DAISY says nothing, in shock at this brutal interruption of her work. She stares in horror at SPANGLER, deaf to everything he has said. End scene.
The "prison" infirmary, containing a number of empty beds and a few with patients. Disoriented moans roll incessantly from one of the beds. DOC HEADS is here, reading a yellowed comic book and eating a lollipop, paying no attention to the discomfort of his charges. He is an older man, dressed comfortably in a salvaged prison jumpsuit. FENK enters, followed by CHANCE. HEADS stands up and addresses them around the lollipop.
HEADS: Hrrdy, crrnl. (He removes the candy with a loud smack.) Chance.
Chance nods amiably.
FENK: Doctor. Slim wants to talk to your patient.
HEADS: (laughs mildly) Slim can forget it.
CHANCE: I got to hear it from him, Doc. What happened to him, anyway?
HEADS: Damned if I know. Something burned hell out of his face. Still burning now, in fact. Don't make a lick of sense and nothing I try seems to stop it. Burning damned slow, though. Almost seems like it's not doing anything at all, but it is. Hell of a way to die.
CHANCE: I want to see it.
HEADS: Now, Chance, I can't-
CHANCE: Whatever this is, the Colonel here is sending me out to get a faceful myself. I want to see it.
HEADS lets out a sigh and proceeds to the patient's bed, putting the candy back in his mouth to free his hands. STEVEN MURPHY is strapped down, writhing in a drugged delirium. MURPHY is a trim, pale man wearing an eye-catching black one-piece uniform and bandages that cover most of his face. HEADS administers another strong dose of sedative, and MURPHY's struggles relax. HEADS carefully removes the bandages and we get a good look at MURPHY's ravaged face. Some sort of glowing green acid or plasma seems to be eating away at the flesh, and the process is highly active, but slow, ever so slow. MURPHY is in an almost total stupor but through a terrible force of will he rolls his eyes to lock with CHANCE's. He attempts to speak, but cannot. CHANCE watches him for a long, sober moment.
CHANCE: How'd he get here? What happened?
FENK: He just showed up at the gates on a motorbike, hysterical. With that face, we figured he was just some dumb mutie, but that uniform didn't make sense, so we didn't pick him off right away. Met him with a full squad. Turned out he just wanted to talk, warn us I guess.
HEADS: (removes the lollipop with another loud smack) Yeah, they brought him in here and he was raving about aliens, nine foot high armored killers who burned all his friends and did this to him. Didn't make too much sense, but, well, you tell me.
CHANCE: How soon can you get him back on his feet, Doc?
HEADS: What? No! Chance, this man is dying.
CHANCE: He said he was from California, right?
HEADS: Yes, yes he did, but-
CHANCE: Doc, this man traveled some 400 miles in this condition to get the help of the Rangers. And he's gonna get it, but he is going back with us. I never been to California, and I don't know where the hell I'm going or what I'm gonna find there. Now this man may die in five minutes, or he may die tomorrow, or he may go on to live another month. Now I am gonna get out there and find out what the hell is happening, and this man is gonna go with me and tell me everything he knows for every minute your drugs can keep him alive. (To FENK, contemptuously) Leave in a week? I am leaving at sunrise, and I am taking this man with me, and you had damn well better have the rest of my team ready to go. Hey you – (sees the tag on the uniform) – Murphy! Get some rest. You're going home tomorrow.
MURPHY seems to forget his pain for a moment. The ruin of his face twists into an awful and indecipherable expression. His right hand slowly clenches into a fist ... with the thumb sticking straight up. Exit CHANCE. HEADS and FENK look sheepishly at one another as MURPHY finally gives in to the sedative and falls asleep. Slowly, despite themselves, the two men break into a smile. HEADS replaces the lollipop in his mouth.