The Eerie Exploits of Ranger Company X part 1
Introduction for The Eerie Exploits of Ranger Company X, a Risus setting by Hank Harwell – GM notes are in italics
Five encrypted telegrams from Ranger Captain Earl R. Buchanan of Company X were sent out. Four telegrams went out to Jack Macher, Vic Abruzzo, Gabriel Cooper, and James Freeman. The decoded message instructed each to meet Ranger Chris DeHartat the Santa Fe Depot in Galveston Texas. Chris received a message telling him to pick up the other four. After meeting at the depot they are to meet with Detective Charlie Sorenson at the Galveston Police Department, who will brief them on the assignment.
CHRIS DEHART: Chris’ 57 Chevy purred as he drove it down the road. Chris, however, was fuming. The telegram he got this morning meant he wouldn’t be able to prevent the upcoming silencing of Astronauts, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. While Chris agreed that the astronauts needed to be “shut up”, as the CIA hack had so eloquently put it. He did not agree with drastic measures the CIA was obviously thinking about. He knew the CIA was planning something big to discourage the rumblings within the astronaut corps. That’s what Chris had hoped to prevent.
Scientists at NASA as well as the astronaut corps were chaffing at the government’s cover up of one of the greatest finds of the 20th century. Grissom, White, and Chaffee were planning on going public after they successfully returned from their launch. The three astronauts figured they would have the undivided attention of the nation at that point. Many of the scientists and other astronauts agreed with them. Chris knew the CIA was planning something drastic to keep NASA quiet but now he was headed to Galveston and figured he could stop it when he got back.
Still fuming, Chris kept the speedometer at 75. He knew he wasn’t going to be pulled over for 5 miles over the limit. He also figured that if he did get pulled over by some rook, his Ranger Badge would take care of any problem. ‘What could be more important than the lives of at least three astronauts’, Chris thought as he drove.
Less than 45 minutes after he’d left Houston, Chris pulled the candy apple red car into the parking lot at the Santa Fe Depot in Galveston. A little calmer after venting his frustrations through the gas pedal, he walked inside the depot and picked up a copy of Life magazine from the newstand. Walking over to the lunch counter he sat down on the second stool and opened the magazine, that was the cue for his fellow Rangers from Company X. Chris knew the names of who he was picking up but aside from his friend Jack he’d never worked with any of the rest them before. Well he’d find out who the were just as soon as they arrived and acknowledged his signal.
GABRIEL COOPER: The bus ride from Brackettville to Galveston was 8 hours of unadulterated boredom. Gabriel was seated in the back of the bus, and no one sat near him. He was wearing civies, blue jeans and a fairly nice white button up shirt, but his hair still had that clean cut soldier look. He had his guitar out of the case, and he plucked at strings practicing a new song, but without an amplifier, there wasn’t much in the way of sound. He could still hear it in his mind, but practicing this way caused those sitting near him to glance at him as if there was something wrong with him.
He was used to the stares, but he still didn’t like them. As a black seminole, he was part of many worlds, and not all of them seemed to get along as well as they should. Gabriel had hopes of helping to change this with his music, but so far, he hasn’t played for more than a few drunks at the Broken Wheel. Someday he’d catch a break, but not today.
He was enduring the bus ride to Galveston because of a telegram. The Rangers thought they could use him for something. He was off to meet with someone named Chris DeHart(a fellow Ranger according to the telegram), and from there to meet witha Detective of the Galveston Police Department. Gabriel was sure what this was about, but he was nervous about meeting withthe detective. His last run in with police was right before he shipped out to VietNam. He was out withhis buddies, and when one of them got into a fight at whatever hole they were drinking at (he didn’t remember the name of the place), Gabriel finished it. They had taught him quite a few techniques for getting out of trouble while he was learning to be an advanced scout, but the trouble in the bar didn’t amount to anything compared with the trouble caused by the police when they showed up.
Gabriel was brought out of his memories when the bus bumped up over a curb. It had arrived. Gabriel packed up his guitar and grabbed his ruck sack (he didn’t own proper luggage and had learned to travel light in the Army). Gabriel made his way to the Santa Fe Depot.
It didn’t take long to spot Chris DeHart. He was already seated at the second stool of the lunch counter flipping through a magazine. Gabriel took a deep breath and moseyed over to him.
JAMES FREEMAN: James Freeman rode a city bus through Galveston to the Santa Fe Depot. He was just following the telegram request to go meet Ranger Chris DeHart, but he had a hunch that this could be very important anyway.
The ride on the bus was more facetious than actual. There were no seats free in the back, and he wasn’t raised to disrespect the older ladies seated there by kicking any of them out; they likely had challenges just to GET a seat because they weren’t white! Supposed ‘equality’ was a joke… he stood the entire ride holding a strap handhold. His legs were tired, but he didn’t complain.
He reached his stop. Other passengers failed to hide relief on their faces to have one less black man among them. Galveston folks were a lot sillier than N’awlins folks; badges weren’t clues enough to them of the good nature of their fellow riders. James just shook his head and rolled his eyes, then stepped out.
DeHart was easy enough to recognize: not only did he have the regulatory cowboy hat of the Rangers in front of him, but he had many others coming over to him.
VIC ABRUZZO: Vic spent his time on the short trip down Old Galveston Road thinking, “Rod. Rodrigo Vargas. Rod. How’s it goin’, I’m Rod Vargas. My former associates who keep trying to plug me call me Vic, but you can call me Vargas. Rod Vargas.”
He expected somebody to ask why a guy in Texas with a Spanish name didn’t know that language, so he had memorized a convoluted story about where his forefathers had moved around Europe and New England. Since he started using this cover, a few people had started talking Spanish to him, but when he said he didn’t know Spanish, nobody grilled him about why.
Vic liked the pickup the Feds had loaned him for the witness protection thing. A green, two year old Ford with all the bells and whistles. It was nice, but he’d trade it in a heartbeat for not having to hide.
A healthy level of paranoia stirred in him again, and he pulled off at a gas station. Vic eyed the few cars that continued towards Galveston. None of them pulled off behind him or exhibited suspicious behavior. It should have set his mind at ease. Instead, he worried that someone might be following who was too good to be spotted.
He comforted himself by thinking of the one familiar thing the Rangers had given him: a six-shooter in his boot. The territory was new to him and he had to adjust to some new rules, but some of the tools were the same for this job as his last job.
The rest of the drive passed with fewer glimpses in his rearview mirror.
Vic strode up to the Rangers gathered at the lunch counter in the Santa Fe Depot. “How’s it goin’? I’m Rod Vargas.”
JACK S. MACHER: “No one should have to ride that far in a bus,” thought Jack, as he watched folks get off in Galveston. He had gone home for a couple days to be with his Mom and the lawyers as they tried to decide what to do. Dad would be home soon, was all Mom wanted to hear. But, she did agree to let Jack have the pickup truck and see to the pile of mail Dad was still receiving.
The telegram was interesting. He and Dad had played with ciphers while camping in the Grand Canyon when… God… How old was Jack? 12?! So many places; seemed like it had to be longer ago than that. But, this? Official, encrypted, addressed to Dad… Hell, he was surprised the courier had let him sign for it. And, then to find it was one that Dad had taught him?
So Jack packed a thermos of coffee, a box of Oreos, the M1, and his trusty goalie stick (almost made the varsity team at the private school, twice before he graduated) and drove to Galveston. By the time he got there he was very thankful for Dad’s Obsessive-Compulsive care for the truck. Also glad to be in Texas where no one looked twice at the rifle, but instead raised an eyebrow at the hockey stick.
He knew no one would recognize him, not with two inches of hair on his head and a semester of fuzz on his chin. Dad would not have approved, but since he wasn’t home, Jack just hadn’t bothered. After the drive though, he was considering making a stop in the rest room. So, knowing that under the hair he looked a lot like his Dad, he hoped the disguise would be successful and scanned the crowds coming and going for Galveston PD.
After a half hour of that, it occurred to him that, A) his Red Sox cap probably stood out like a beacon, and B) a detective probably would not be wearing a uniform. So plan B.
Jack took a seat at the lunch counter, ordered steak and eggs and a bottomless cup of orange juice, and pulled out a large card board sign reading, “J. Macher.”