Author's Note: Hello and thank you for coming to read my Rango fanfiction! First off, I just wanted to say that I have always loved the Rango movie, and have wanted to write this story for a while. Its gone through many phases and plot-rewrites to get here, spent months just sitting on my computer until I finally polished it up and wrote this chapter for you. And I can't wait to get into this baby! :D
Secondly, I need to say the usual: I don't own Rango, all rights to their respective owners. I only own the plot and any OC characters.
Please leave a review, even constructive criticism, all comments are welcome. And please enjoy!
Better the Devil You Know
"So trade was closed and deed was given and the Lord went back to his home in heaven
And the devil said now I got all what's needed to make it good hell and he succeeded." – Jonny Cash, 'Mean as Hell'
Many would assume that the Mojave Desert is a harsh and cruel environment, with only death as its soul inhabitant. But you would be surprised to learn that even in this unforgiving, blistering, hellish, mind-crumbling, soul-eating, unending, hot, dry, death-inducing, madness-creating landscape, there is still life. An abundance of life, actually. Animals that have had millions of years to adapt to the harsh environment thrive here, though even they struggle at times. What you would be even more surprised to learn, is that a day's journey into the heart of the desert, there is a little secret town, a frontier town still living in the ways of the old west.
The town was once known as 'Dirt', for there was nothing grand or promising or hopeful about it. It had been a bleak and miserable place with bleak and miserable citizens. Starved of water, the one thing that was in incredibly short supply in the desert – to an educated soul that would be unsurprising – they had managed to survive off of a mere trickle of the life giving substance from an old pipe. Yet mysteriously, their water began to run dry, until in the end it was gone all together. Yet by some mysterious turns of events, the water was returned in abundance, and now a large lake sat right next to the town, with more cool fresh water then the inhabitants of the town could ever wish for. Due to this miracle, the town had been renamed 'Mud', not exactly an inspiring or even pretty name, but as the townsfolk were an unimaginative lot, they were simply happy for any moisture beneath their feet, and so named their town after that.
In the months since the water had returned, the town had been rebuilt out of any bits of wood, rocks and constructs the humans left behind. Seeing as the town had been smashed apart when the water came back, but the people of Mud were resourceful and quickly rebuilt their town exactly as it had been before – only this time it had a huge lake right beside it. It was now a year since that day the water had returned, and the town was more prosperous then it had been in decades.
On this particular day, Sheriff Rango, a chameleon and the town's oddball and hero (who was still not dead), was out on his rounds. Dressed in his usual white shirt, brown waist-coat, jeans, boots, cowboy hat and signature sheriff's star, he strutted about his home-town with a skip in his step and a grin on his wide mouth.
"Afternoon, Ambrose!" Rango hollered across the street to the burrowing owl in a gentleman's attire.
"Good afternoon, Sheriff!" Ambrose called back, his voice without the twang of the cowboy-accent the rest of the town had; he waved a wing, a smile on his beak.
"Sheriff," Squeaked a little white mouse with a long beard as he smiled up at the chameleon.
"Spoons! My favourite utensil-playing rodent," Rango grinned.
"Sheriff Rango!" Came a sudden cry as the big-golden-eyed cactus mouse, Pricilla, suddenly appeared in front of Rango, hardly appearing out of breath, but there was an excited glint in her eyes as she looked up at the man before her. "Trouble's brewing at the other end of town! You better come quick!" She said as she pulled on Rango's arm as she tugged him in the right direction.
"Wait, now hold on little sister!" Rango said as he pulled the girl to a stop and knelt down in front of her. "Now what's a-going on?"
"Some boys I ain't never seen before, Sheriff." Pricilla said in her usual calm way. "They came strolling into town and began making a right fuss. They be getting people worked up, causin' a bit-a trouble. I thought you could go in and shove 'em outta town."
"Trouble, eh?" Rango asked, not really liking the sound of that, but to save face in front of his young admirer, he straightened himself and gave an indifferent sniff. "Best I go and show dem boys the law in this town."
As he went to march in the direction Pricilla had indicated, he was a little startled to see her calmly following him, and so quickly stopped her with a soft hand on her shoulder.
"Whoa, now hold it there, little sister." He said quickly. "Now, someone's gonna need to go to my office and request… uh, reinforcements. Can't have all the glory now, can I?" The excuse came easy. Despite the fact that the town knew of Rango's previous lies, and that he and them had moved past that, he couldn't resist the temptation to play the part of the hero. That was one part of him that would never change: the actor.
"Can I bring my shotgun?" Pricilla asked.
"Err… let's put a pin in that thought." Rango murmured uneasily. It troubled him how fascinated Pricilla was with death, but the girl never seemed to want to cause any real harm… she just liked the idea of death.
"Don't do anything stupid, Rango!" The girl said over her shoulder as she began to march back up the street towards the sheriff's office. With her now out of harm's way, Rango sighed before he marched back towards where the girl had said these trouble-makers were.
He found three strangers. One, who was presumably the leader, was a large rat with a balding head and crooked buck teeth, but with clear and intelligent eyes. The second was a Chuckwalla lizard, with a long snout, black scales flecked with white like freckles. And the third was a Round-tailed Ground Squirrel, a creature that looked more like a chipmunk then it did a squirrel. All three were dressed in surprisingly well kept black leather boots, jeans and ponchos, though they seemed to be packing enough gear to bring down elephants, as there wasn't a free space on them that wasn't covered by knives or guns or bullet belts.
Rango found the three strangers surrounding a rabbit with two of the town children huddled behind her. The ground squirrel held the three at gun point whilst the other two were seemingly destroying her house whilst she watched. Rango felt himself torn on how to feel. On one hand all those guns and knives these strangers carried made them appear professional and incredibly fierce. However, upon seeing his citizens threatened in such a way, Rango wanted to feel brave… even when he really wasn't. But upon seeing him out of the corner of her eye, the woman's eyes beamed with hope.
"Oh! Sheriff Rango! Sheriff Rango! Help!" She cried out to him with a wave of her arm. The ground squirrel snarled something at her, making her shut up, before following her gaze to see Rango standing there. The squirrel's eyes widened and he suddenly looked unsure.
"Uh… boss?" He called out in a dopey voice. "We got a problem…" When there was no response, he shouted: "Tomson!"
"What?!" The rat snarled ferociously as he turned on the squirrel from where he had been stuffing the woman's necklaces from her jewellery box he had retrieved from the house into his pocket. Upon seeing that his companion was looking not at him, the rat – named Tomson – turned his head to look at Rango.
Rango felt the vibe in the air change from aggressive to wary, and he wandered how well this could work for him.
"Now I'll only tell you boys once…" Rango said loudly, laying on his thick accent with his sense of false bravado. "Leave the civilian population alone. We don't want no trouble here. You keep things nice and easy and we can go our separate ways…"
"The one-bullet legend…" The rat Tomson murmured as his eyes travelled up and down Rango's body. Rango felt his bravado slip a bit when his words seemed to go ignored.
"I say again: let the woman go." Rango tried to sound fierce. "If you don't I'll put this here 'one-bullet' between all of yer eyes!"
"No need for that, Sheriff," Tomson said with a slight curl of his lip. "Woman was tellin' us nothing anyways." With a nod of his head, Tomson signalled to the ground squirrel who lifted his gun away from his hostages as the Chuckwalla shoved them away. The woman wasted no time in quickly ushering the two children to safety as they ran. Rango didn't exactly know how to feel about this, leaving him an awkward moment as he stared at the strangers.
"Mighty appreciated…" He mumbled. "Might I ask you boys who you are and what you're doing here?"
"You could call us 'fixers'…" Tomson said with a cruel grin as the other two laughed.
"Yeah, people pay us to fix their problems." The Chuckwalla snickered.
"Oh…" Rango mumbled, a sense of dread forming in his stomach as he pondered the thought of mercenaries in his town. "So… uh, what did you come here to fix?"
"We're here looking for a snake." Tomson said, his eyes growing dark and serious as he studied Rango carefully.
"S-Snake?" Rango all but yelped as he could have sworn he heard a metallic rattle in the back of his mind.
"Where's the snake, Sheriff?" Tomson almost growled as his hand hovered over his gun.
"Now I don't know what you boys think yer doing," Rango said with a stern expression, trying to once more act the courageous hero. "But I can tell you the truth: no snake's been here in–"
"Oh I think not, Sheriff." Tomson spat as he quickly held out his gun, along with his companions, and held them all pointing at Rango. The chameleon stood frozen for a moment, unsure of what to do before he did the first thing that came to his mind.
"Look! Hawk!" He shouted as he pointed his finger at the sky.
Whether by instinct or luck, all three mercenaries turned in fear to look at the sky, ducking low and covering themselves as if they feared talons would spear them at any moment. When nothing came however, they stood and Tomson quickly spun around, only to see the end of Rango's tail ducking behind an alley. The three quickly gave chase, and Rango ran as fast as he could as he tried to come up with a new plan. Seeing another turn, he quickly ducked into it, standing completely still and flush against the wall of the building behind him. He waited until he saw the three mercenaries run past him, before he jumped out with a grin.
"Ah-ha!" He proclaimed triumphantly as he pointed his gun at their backs.
Tomson and the others growled in annoyance as they turned to face him, and all three pointed their guns at him.
"Uh-oh…" Rango mumbled, before screaming and running back up the alleyway.
He emerged onto the main street, hoping about and dodging the bullets that flew at him from his pursuers. Running towards the nearest barrel, Rango dived into it, just as Tomson and the others came out onto the street. They ran towards the barrel and Tomson snarled as he reached in in order to yank out the Sheriff –
There was a loud click, and the mercenary froze in place. He slowly drew back, with Rango slowly came up after him, his gun pointed at the rat's face. The ground squirrel and the Chuckwalla pointed their guns at Rango, but Tomson didn't move, keeping his eyes on the metal barrel pointed at his head. They had reached a stalemate.
They all stood perfectly still, none sure who was going to make the first move. Rango smiled nervously.
They then heard a flurry of clicks, and all four slowly turned to see a dozen of the town members pointing their arsenal of firearms at the three mercenaries. Tomson's eyes grew large as they travelled from face to face, seeming to think on what to do next.
"Reinforcements!" Rango cheered triumphantly. He then reached into Tomson's pocket and pulled out the stolen necklaces, the rat not daring to make a move with Rango's gun still pointed at his head. "Now why don't you boys be on your way. We don't want no trouble here."
Tomson hesitated, before nodding to his comrades and they quickly headed off out of town and into the desert. Rango climbed out of the barrel, and after giving the rabbit woman back her stolen necklaces, and then thanking those who had stepped in to chase off the Mercenaries, he turned to his deputy, Wounded-Bird. The crow, although still without one leg, was completely healed from his shot wounds and fall from a clock tower.
"Why thank you for your assistance there WB," Rango grinned as he strutted over to his friend. "Your help was much appreciated."
"Looked more like rescue." Wounded Bird mumbled quietly.
"What?" Rango blinked before quickly covering for himself like it was a knee-jerk response. "Oh-no! That… that was, uh, a strategy! Yes! I was luring them into my trap, lulling them into a false sense of security. Another five seconds and they would have been putty in my hands."
"Uh-huh." Wounded Bird rolled his eyes. "What did strangers want?"
"Don't know," Rango answered truthfully. "They said they wanted a snake…"
"Yeah, they could only mean Rattlesnake Jake – but he ain't been here for months." The chameleon murmured thoughtfully as the puzzle worked over in his brain.
"Snake outlaw. Would have many enemies." Wounded Bird said seriously.
"Yeah…" Rango nodded gravely. "But if they're coming here for him, that may be bad news for the town."
"Snake can handle his own problems." Wounded Bird said somewhat stiffly. Rango blinked as the words struck a chord in him.
"That… might not be such a bad idea after all…" Rango murmured with a slow nod of his head.
"Rango!" Came a sudden shout and he turned to see the lovely brown-haired, blue dress wearing lizard-lady he'd come to adore.
"Beans!" Rango called with a smile, but as soon as she reached him, Beans didn't hesitate to smack his arm. "Ow!"
"What were you thinking?!" Beans fumed. "You could've been shot, you idiot!"
"But I wasn't!" Rango whined.
"Them trouble-makers gone?" Beans asked with a slight huff.
"Yeah, they're long gone now." Rango couldn't help raising his chin with a smug grin.
"Rango, that's the fifth time this month we've had boys like them causing us trouble." Beans snapped. "We can't let this continue…"
"Trust me Beans," Rango said to her softly. "I'm gonna do all I can to get to the bottom of this, I promise."
"Oh…" Beans' eyes softened as she cupped his face with a small smile. "I know… I'm just worried is all,"
"I know…" Rango said as he braced himself for the storm he was about to unleash. "But I'm gonna need you to help keep the town together for me."
"What? Why? Where you going?" Beans blinked in surprise as she bombarded him with questions.
"I need to head out of town, I should be back before dark… if my sources are correct." Rango said as he began to walk back to the Sheriff station where his roadrunner was tied to the front post.
"Why would you need to head out of town?" Beans asked as he untied his roadrunner.
"Well, I need to see a certain somebody about what's going on." Rango murmured uneasily.
"And who would that be?"
"Them boys said they wanted to find a snake…" Rango didn't look Beans in the eye as he purposefully avoided the question.
"Rango…" Beans warned.
"So I thought if anyone can come clean up his own mess…"
"It should be him. Which is why…"
"I'm gonna go get Rattlesnake Jake!" Rango finished quickly.
"WHAT?!" Beans shrieked. And then all of a sudden she froze in place, every single muscle freezing, not even her eyes blinking. It was her broken reflex that had saved him once again. Rango and Wounded Bird stood frozen with apprehension as they waited to make sure she was frozen.
"Best to go now…" Wounded Bird murmured.
"Going!" Rango all but leapt onto his roadrunner as he began to race out of town before he even buckled himself in. He was well out of town when he heard a familiar scream:
After Rattlesnake Jake had left the ruined yet water-plentiful town of Dirt with Mayor Tortoise John, Rango had thought it a good idea to keep an ear to the ground on the movements of the Rattler. He'd wanted to know if Jake was ever headed in the direction of the town, normally the outlaw stuck to the desert, moving from one place to next as he did jobs that only added to his fearsome reputation, even if these past several months had been quiet compared to the snake's usual. But Rango had kept tabs on him, just in case. And it seemed that that intuition now paid off as it led him here.
Rango stood in the entrance way of a cave beneath an outcropping of rocks. Inside was shaded and cool from the sun, but was so infinitely black that Rango couldn't see three inches in. The cave seemed to be deep enough that nothing could reach in without having to step inside it fully. On the ground were marks where Jake's underbelly had scrapped against the sand and stone in his slithering. The tracks were recent. Rango felt his heart give a nervous flutter as his stomach felt like it was doing flips.
Despite the fact that Jake hadn't killed Rango the last time they'd met, Rango was still uncertain of where they stood. Jake seemed to dislike him, even if he gave the chameleon his begrudging respect when they'd parted ways. Rango was certain that it was mainly because Jake had been too occupied with wanting his revenge on the mayor for betraying him. So the Sheriff was more than a little nervous about voluntarily facing against the Rattlesnake again.
"Jake!" He shouted into the cave, hovering just outside the threshold. Rango wasn't that stupid as to walk into the snake's den uninvited when he couldn't see his hand in front of his face. "It-It's me, Rango! I'm not here for trouble! I just wanna talk!"
As his cries echoed into the cave, Rango felt his nerves double as it felt like he would be sick at any given moment. He shifted from foot to foot, ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble to where he'd left his roadrunner several feet away. The chameleon's beady eyes shifted around in agitation, his fingers twitching as the suspense ate at him.
And then from the darkness, two eyes like hellfire appeared.
Rango all but soiled his pants when those slit-pupils focused on him with a cold gaze, the yellow rimming the black and fading into a deep and furious red enough to make any grown man sweat. There was a sound of metal rattling, and the eyes came forward. Rango almost fell over himself in his haste to back up in order to give the snake room as he came out of the cave into the scalding-hot sunlight. Once again, Rango was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the snake that reared up before him, let alone his nightmare-inducing appearance.
Rattlesnake Jake was a snake of unimaginable size: five and a half feet long, a human would have considered him a very staggering sized snake, let alone a little four inch tall chameleon. Jake's sand-coloured scales allowed him to blend in with the desert ground, apart from the large black diamonds running along his back, surrounded by white borders, the namesake of the Western Diamondbacks. Despite the fact that he wore no 'clothing' per-se, Jake's hellfire eyes and deadly expression was shaded by a black hat, and strapped along his body were bullet belts, with bullets each as long as Rango's hands. In place of the iconic rattle-tail, Jake had a metal Gatling-gun that rotated and shook in order to give off an eerie metallic rattling. Despite the large gun that Jake was rattling with clear annoyance, Rango's eyes were drawn to the curled lip which hinted at the needle-like teeth and folded fangs hidden in the snake's deadly mouth.
"Hello… brother…" Jake hissed in a low voice as he shifted on his coils until he was looming over Rango, gun-rattle chiming softly to the side of him. "Been a long time…"
"That it has Jacob," Rango tried to smile with a light-hearted tone despite the fact that his heart was hammering against his chest.
"Don't call me that name." Jake snapped coldly, causing Rango to jump back in fright before he quickly tried to compose himself. Jake's forked black tongue shot out of his mouth as he tasted the air, and Rango could've sworn that the rattler's gaze lit up with dark amusement as he tasted Rango's terror.
"Okay then…" Rango murmured nervously, once more trying to ease the tension in the air. "I see you've been, uh, doing well…"
"I hope ya gotta damn good reason for calling me out here…" Jake growled as his rattle began to get louder with his aggravation. The rattlesnake's eyes narrowed on Rango with a dark expression as a thought suddenly struck him. "Ya ain't trying to bring me in… That'll only getcha killed, Brother."
"Now Jake…" Rango wet his lips as he inched back a little. "I had hoped that after what happened… uh, last time… W-We could start over –"
"I spared you once outta gratitude." Jake interrupted with a growl, coils hissing as they scraped along the ground as he loomed slowly closer to Rango with dangerous fiery eyes. "That don't mean jack-shit now."
"Hold on there, Jake!" Rango spluttered quickly as he held up his hands. "I promise! I'm not here looking for trouble!"
"Then spit it out, Sheriff, before I lose what little patience I got left." Hissed the snake.
"Okay, uh…" The Sheriff mumbled, swallowing hard as he tried to slip into the only thing that could possibly calm him: acting. "Mud's been having trouble recently, with folks who keep harassing the town. Now usually I can fend them off myself. You know how it is, they don't dare mess with the legend who could single handily take them and –"
"Tell me any'a yer stories, Sheriff, and I'll blow a hole through yer skull." Jake growled dangerously, his Gatling Gun clicking ominously as the bullets already loaded in it engaged.
"Right then…" The Chameleon murmured. "Anyways… One of 'em today said they was looking for you. And I want to know Jake, have you got any enemies that would want to hurt Mud to get to you?"
"I don't give two rats asses about yer town, Sheriff, so these boys are either new or they're stupid." Jake dismissed with a hard tone. "But anyone who's gotta bone to pick with me that I know of, they're already dead."
"I had thought you might want to… you know, come and sort this mess out." Rango murmured, eyes shifting as he dared to voice his secret hope. Jake gave a cold and humourless laugh.
"Why?" He asked condescendingly. "You want me to play town hero? That's yer job, Sheriff. I only come in when I need to take a soul to hell."
"It's the right thing, Jake." Rango mumbled.
"Ha!" Jake laughed loudly, though once again, it was not a merry sound. He turned his gaze back onto Rango with a slight curl of his lip, before he turned and began to go back into his cave in one fluid motion. "I don't run no charity. Go home, little-man. Yer've amused me enough for one day."
"What if I asked to hire you?" Rango blurted before he could stop himself. Jake stopped.
"Come again?" The snake asked without turning back around.
"What if I hired you to come in and help me deal with these trouble-makers until they're gone." Rango continued, unable to go back on this sudden and unintended course, and so plunged right in.
"I'd say yer making a deal with the devil…" Jake murmured as he turned to look at Rango with an unreadable expression.
"I always say: better the devil you know."
"And what does yer little town think'a this? I can't see them folks being too thrilled to have me wandering their streets freely." Jake smirked as he turned back around to fully face Rango.
"You let me worry 'bout them." The chameleon murmured quietly.
"And what would ya pay me with? I'm ain't gonna be cheap…" Jake lifted a brow at the lizard before him.
"I can offer whatever's left of Mayor John's fortune, maybe a few of his things. He got no family to claim it." Rango offered, thinking of the only thing he could really promise Jake now. No one had claimed what was left of Mayor John's things, they'd just been sitting in storage up until now, so why not let Jake have them to do with what he liked?
"Now that is tempting…" Jake's smirk turned cruel before he looked at Rango with a calculating expression. "But ya are aware I don't leave no place without taking a soul with me…"
"I'll… keep that in mind…" The Sheriff swallowed nervously.
"Ya better." Jake's eyes became hard, a warning in his voice as clear as the sun above them as he spoke. "Ya hire me to do something, ya let me do my job. I don't do it pretty, and I don't do it nice. But I do what I'm hired for. So long as ya don't get in the way'a that, we'll be fine."
"Okay…" Rango nodded obediently, hope starting to dawn in his chest as he focused on the specific words – it sounded like Jake was actually considering this! "So I'll hire you to help me protect my town from these mercenaries and whoever's hired them. And in return for your services, you get the… late Mayor John's riches and belongings. Do we have ourselves an agreement?"
Jake grinned evilly.
"You gotta deal." The snake nodded.