Author's Note: Galaxy Rangers fans, please skip to the disclaimer below. This note is for my faithful Five-0 followers who are saying "What the f-!" right about now. This is about my other favorite crime-fighting foursome. (Like the alliteration so far?) Be reassured I am not writing anything but Five-0 at the moment, but I found a computer at work old enough to convert some of my old fan fic files out of MacWrite, so I plan to post a few stories written long ago. (Yes, Poohbear, Lancer next.)
For you newcomers who might stick around, the Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers is an animated series about four scientifically superpowered law officers protecting Earth and its allies in a space cop opera with an Old West motif. So you might get the crusty old prospector, but he'll have a talking mechanical burro. Episodes ranged from downright silly to outright tragic and included everything from an Oklahoma-esque land rush to a space armada attacking Earth to a museum art theft and a three-dimensional car chase. And don't forget the spiders from Mars. Awesome show. So maybe you'd like to stick around and try something new, but if you can't bear the thought of talking — excuse me — singing robot horses, then no harm, no foul, see you back in Hawaii.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Galaxy Rangers. However, I have purchased episodes on Beta (appropriately), VHS, DVD and iTunes, so I think that earned me the right to play in this sandbox. So, Galaxy Rangers, ho!
And the Horse You Rode In On
"The sun was bright the day we left
And everything got hot,
But that's the way it's always been.
The sun can't change its spots.
Oh, don't you cry for us.
We're gonna make our fortunes soon.
Utopia or bust!"
Shane Gooseman winced, and thought, for the thirteenth time in two verses, that the outlaw planet Tortuna was no place to be singing.
There was no telling why Voyager had started the song. There was never any telling with that horse. But Doc, Niko and Mel hadn't needed to join in. And to make matters worse, Mel was the only one in tune.
Tortuna was the stronghold of humanity's most deadly enemy, the Queen of the Crown. She offered a bounty on humans, with a special bonus for the living, breathing carcasses of the Galaxy Rangers. The Queen owned Tortuna.
And here were the four of them, riding along, singing — as if they were on their way to a church picnic!
Of course, they were in the middle of the desolate red-tinted wastelands that made up most of the planet since the Queen had decimated its native population. It wasn't likely that anyone would hear the singing. But it was the principle of the thing, Goose decided.
He pulled the drooping brown cowboy hat of his Zangwill disguise over his eyes and snorted through the heavy brown scarf that was wound around his neck.
Triton echoed his snort of disgust.
Goose patted his silver steed's metallic neck. Triton strutted a bit at the attention, but remained silent.
Trust Triton to maintain silence on a hostile planet, Goose thought with fond pride. You wouldn't catch his horse singing!
"The cosmic dust, it made us sneeze.
The Big Bang made us wince.
Got wet in meteor showers
and blowed dry in solar winds."
Goose looked ahead at his captain's stiff back and the shiny golden rump of his sturdy steed.
Brutus might be slow of wit and slow of foot next to the newer model robot horses, but he had his good points. For one thing, he didn't sing.
The captain was also silent. Zachary Fox was as likely to sing on Tortuna as Triton was to eat hay.
Zach seemed to be riding mechanically, leaving the path finding to Brutus. His gaze was distant. His thoughts obviously far away.
And just as obviously, he wasn't going to do anything about this noise. Goose sighed.
Oh, don't you cry for us.
We're gonna make our fortunes soon.
Utopia or bust!
"The Milky Way was curdled
And the Big Dipper got bent.
We traveled through a black hole
And returned before we went."
The blond ranger reined back and Triton fell in step with gleaming, bluish Voyager. Goose eyed her rider with disfavor.
"Doc!" he shouted over Voyager's attempt at high C, "This is no place to be singing!"
Walter "Doc" Hartford interrupted himself to say, "No place better, my Goose-man." The black man nodded at the dreary, ruined landscape around them.
"This place needs all the singing it can get."
Before Goose could argue, Doc had leaped back into the song again.
Goose scowled and caught Niko's eye. She winked at him. He gaped at her, then opened his mouth to continue his futile argument.
Oh, don't you cry for us.
We're gonna make our fortunes soon.
Utopia or b…"
Zach's hand shot up in the ages old cavalry signal for "halt." Four voices cut off in mid-word. The three horses behind him stopped dead. Goose shook his head in admiration. That was a commanding officer.
The captain didn't even notice the silence behind him, though he would have noted its absence. He cocked his head at Brutus, whose sudden halt had triggered Zachary's signal. The golden horse's ears swiveled from side to side. He stamped a foot as if puzzled.
"What's wrong, Brute?" Zach asked.
"Horses, sir. Robot horses," the robot said in his deep voice.
"At least two dozen," Voyager's squeaky soprano put in.
"Deathsteeds!" Triton added, as his sensors locked in on the sounds that were too faint for human ears.
Zachary looked back at Mel, the beige horse who preferred a beige name and who had the most sensitive detectors of any of the steeds. Mel took his time, counting the hollow hoof beats.
"Twenty-seven Deathsteeds, heading .356 degrees, bearing 9.7, declination minus 12," he said in his calm, mellow voice.
"Minus 12," Niko mused. "Must be down in one of those canyons."
"They're going to cross our path," Zach said. "Think they'll be able to spot us?"
Insufficient data, captain," Mel answered. "Iron ore in the canyon walls makes sensor readings uncertain, so the Crown Agents will only be able to detect us visually. They can only do that if they come out of the canyon, or if we go in."
"Which is exactly what we plan to do," Doc said sardonically, then a thought struck him. "Won't that path take them right past our rendezvous?"
"Geezy might be in trouble," he said. "Let's keep going … " His eyes twinkled as he added, " … quietly."
About time! Goose thought — quietly.
They reached the lip of the arroyo and looked down. From their vantage point, the area looked like a maze of canyons and mesas. Once the site of a geologic upheaval, the rocks and cliffs were split by a multitude of fissures. The region looked cracked and broken, as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to a pile of gigantic blocks.
"No wonder they call it the Fractured Land," Niko commented.
"Looks like a jigsaw puzzle after the Kiwi Kids get through with it," Doc said.
"An easy place to get lost," Zachary added.
"Good thing we have a map," Doc said lightly.
"The closer we get, the more the ore-bearing rock distorts my sensors," Mel contributed. "It is an unpleasant sensation."
"We don't need sensors to recognize that," Goose said, pointing at a cloud of dust rising from one arroyo.
"That's a whole buncha riders," Doc said.
"Twenty-seven," Niko reminded him.
"One troop of Crown Agents, two officers …" Goose mused.
"… And one Slaver Lord," Zachary growled, his blue eyes narrowed in bridled fury.
Zachary Fox had fought Slaver Lords and been the soul-controlled tool of a Slaver Lord.
He didn't care for Slaver Lords.
Doc studied the erratic readouts of his CDU. "It looks like they're still heading toward Geezy's," Goose said ominously.
"Maybe they've got a map, too," Voyager said brightly.
Goose and Doc both opened their mouths to snap at the flaky horse, but Zachary appeared to take her suggestion seriously.
"Maybe not a map, but how about a navigational beacon?" the captain asked.
"A homing device!" Doc breathed.
He tuned his CDU at the same time the horses tuned their sensors.
"Bingo! I'm picking up an energy pulse from the direction of Geezy's place," Doc reported. The horses confirmed the ranger's findings.
"Can we beat the Crown Agents to Geezy?" Zach asked.
"Easy as pi," Doc replied.
"Then we'd better get to him before those Crown Agents do," the captain decided. "Galaxy Rangers, ho!"
The robot horses slid down a slope to the relatively flat canyon floor, then started forward at a gallop. Triton stretched out his Model 6 Racing Chassis, reveling in the speed. There was nothing the metal steed liked better than running full tilt with his friend Shane Gooseman on his back.
Triton quickly outstripped the others who stuck together, letting Brutus and his heavy, 3000-series chassis set the pace. It wasn't a slow pace, unless you compared it to Triton's. As they came in sight of Geezy's cabin, Mel began to lag back, though he had a speedier chassis than Brutus' heavy frame.
"Something wrong, Mel?" Niko asked in concern.
The steed's sensors swiveled uncertainly.
"I fear so," Mel replied. "That energy pulse. It seems disturbingly familiar, like a homing device, plus something else. It reminds me more of … a timer! Niko, it's a bomb!"
"Goose! Stop!" Niko shouted. Mel raised his electronic voice in a shout, "Triton! Stop! Danger!"
Goose hauled back on the control reins. Triton planted his hind feet, rearing in his effort to halt his forward momentum. Goose had to cling to the saddle horn with both hands to keep his seat.
An explosion rocked the canyon, catching Goose and Triton off balance.
Geezy's cabin erupted with a clap of thunder, bringing down both sides of the canyon in an earth-shaking avalanche.
The blast threw Triton from his feet and slammed him down on his back. Goose tried to touch his badge, tried to leap clear, but he didn't have time. Triton's metal frame crashed down on the ranger's all-too-human chest.
"Goose!" Niko cried in fear, getting a mouthful of blast-borne grit for her trouble.
Farther from the explosion and braced on all four feet, the other horses and their riders had been pelted by dirt and debris, but were otherwise uninjured. As the echoes of the blast died away, they raced to their fallen friends.
His sensors scrambled by the explosion, Triton was in a panic. He tried again and again to rise, but only fell back on Goose's unprotected body. The ranger didn't even twitch at the pounding.
"Triton! Lie still!" Zachary roared. "You're hurting Goose!"
Though half-deafened, the robot horse recognized the voice of command. He stiffened his metal body, lying as still as possible.
"Goose?" he said tremulously.
The blond ranger did not reply. He was unconscious. His labored breathing rasped and bubbled.
Doc crouched beside Goose, running an autodoc across his friend's body. Niko cradled the bloodstained, blond head in her lap. Her gentle fingers detected an ugly soft spot in the mutant ranger's skull.
"Easy, Shane," she murmured, but the man didn't hear her.
"How bad is it?" Zachary asked in a low voice.
"Bad, captain," Doc said grimly. The ranger chewed his lower lip uncertainly. "We've got to get Triton off him," he announced.
"Are you sure?" Zach asked.
The pressure of Triton's body might be the only thing keeping Goose alive. The captain flexed his bionic left arm unconsciously. No one knew better than Zachary Fox that crushing force could preserve life at the same time as it maimed a person for life.
Doc gave Zach a haunted look that the captain understood. No, Doc wasn't certain. He was a computer doctor, not a human doctor; but he was making the best guess he could under the circumstances.
Zachary's real right hand dropped onto Doc's shoulder for a moment.
"All right, Brutus and I will get Triton off."
"He has to come straight off," Doc warned. "Any more sawing back and forth could kill Goose."
"Straight off," Zach confirmed.
"No problem," Brutus said, moving into position directly in front of Triton, but facing away from the fallen horse.
"Need any help?" Mel offered.
"Not enough room," Zach replied.
Zachary took his polyfilament rope and tied it to Brutus' saddle horn, fastened it around Triton's body, then took the free end back to Brutus, fastening it to the saddle. The rope formed a sling around Triton's body.
Zachary crouched beside Triton, sliding his left hand along the horse's back, easing it between Triton and Goose. The captain felt the horse tremble.
"Easy, boy," he said. "We'll get you out of this."
"Right now you can help Goose best by getting to your feet," Zach said. "Ready, Brute?"
Zachary touched his badge, channeling the power of his implant into his bionic arm. "Now!"
Brutus leaned forward, taking up the slack gently, then threw his weight against the ropes. Triton rocked forward. Zachary slipped his arm down and prevented the horse from rocking back. Brutus dug his massive hoofs into the rubble-ridden ground and pulled. Zachary planted his bionic left leg, placed his steel-reinforced shoulder under Triton's body and lifted.
The quarter-ton steed moved forward and upward as smoothly as a baby in his mother's arms.
"Put your hind feet down now, Triton," Niko called.
The robot horse felt for purchase gingerly, then planted his feet firmly. Zachary gave a final push as Brutus yanked on the ropes. Triton toppled forward and landed on four feet with a teeth-jarring crash. Zachary dropped to hands and knees, breathing hard for a moment; then rose to unfasten the linked horses.
As the captain returned to his injured ranger, Brutus moved next to Triton, offering a shoulder to lean on. The shaken racing steed needed it.
"Thank you, Brutus," the chastened Triton said.
"Any time," the captain's steed replied.
"Doc?" Niko asked.
"It's worse than I thought," Doc said soberly. "His chest is crushed. His skull is fractured. Internal injuries …" The ranger shook his head.
"Can we get him back to Beta?" Zach asked.
"We can't even get him back to Ranger One," Doc replied. "If we move him, we'll surely kill him."
"He's only got one chance," Doc continued. "We know his biodefenses work after the fact. I just hope they can handle this much damage."
The black ranger pressed his friend's badge, which he couldn't reach when Triton's body had covered Goose. The injured ranger's still form was enveloped in a veil of golden light which seemed to surge and flare like solar prominences.
"I've never seen it do that before," Zach said.
"I hope that means it's working," Niko said.
The rangers had to shield their eyes from the blinding light. Through the glare, they seemed to see Gooseman's body deform and reshape itself, over and over again. Usually just a flash of light, the glow continued far longer than usual. It dwindled with uncharacteristic slowness, and was finally gone.
"Well, Doc?" Zach asked.
"I think it worked," Niko said hopefully. She could no longer feel the soft spot in Goose's skull. Even the scalp laceration was gone, though traces of blood in the blond hair showed Niko where the gash had been.
"Close enough," Doc said with a sigh of relief. "He's still got some cracked ribs and a concussion, but most of the damage has been … repaired." The black ranger was amazed anew at the incredible adaptability of Gooseman's biodefenses and the resiliency of his mutant body.
"Nice operating, Doc," Zachary praised.
"I didn't do anything," the ranger protested. "It was Goose's biodefenses, and it took everything they had, too," Doc continued somberly. "His implant is drained, Zach."
"Can he ride?" Zach asked, new worries crowding in on the heels of the old ones. "That blast will bring those Crown Agents for sure."
"Give me a minute to bandaged his ribs," Doc replied. "Then we can scoot."
Doc opened a compartment in Voyager's side to get a first aid kit.
"Ooh, that tickles!" Voyager giggled.
"Is Goose going to be all right?" Triton asked hesitantly.
"I haven't lost a patient, yet," Doc replied. Of course, he wasn't a medical doctor, either; but he didn't intend to remind Triton of that.
"Are you all right, Triton?" Zachary asked. "Will you be able to carry Goose?"
"Yes, sir. My body was jarred out of alignment, but I'm still functional. You would let me carry Goose, after what happened?"
Zachary patted Triton's soot-smudged neck. "Of course. Goose wouldn't want it any other way. It's not your fault you were knocked over by the explosion."
It was his fault he was so much closer to the blast than the others, Zachary thought. Triton always had to show off. But you could blame Goose, too, for letting his horse get out of hand, or Zachary, because he could have called them back, but hadn't seen the need.
"Triton," Zachary said in his most impressive captain's voice. "I'm counting on you to get Goose safely back to Ranger One."
"Yes, sir!" The robot horse straightened his sagging neck and stiffened his trembling legs. He wasn't going to let Goose down a second time.
"Captain, we have a complication," Mel said. "There's someone alive inside the cabin."
It seemed like forever, but actually mere minutes had elapsed between the explosion and the time Mel was able to tear his sensors from the immediate drama to scan the area around them.
"In there?" Doc said incredulously.
The ruptured wood frame cabin was leaking smoke from a dozen gaping holes. Its roof was smashed and its front door buried by the landslide that blockaded the canyon. The smoldering building looked thoroughly squashed.
"There is more to the cabin than there seems," Mel replied. "It's just a front for a cavern that goes well back into the side of the mesa."
"You mean it's bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside?" Doc said, winding bandages around Goose's chest even as he spoke.
"Exactly," Mel agreed. "The cabin's wood-frame walls are built around metal panels. Inside, there are blast doors like those on a spaceship. It was one of those blast doors that apparently protected the Pendulant I sense inside."
"Geezy," Zach said. "Can you tell how badly he's hurt?"
"Insufficient data, captain," Mel apologized. "The life signs are strong, but he doesn't appear to be moving. I would guess he is either unconscious or trapped."
Zachary frowned. It made sense that Geezy's cabin was not what it seemed. He was part of the underground on Tortuna, a dangerous place to be anything that did not meet with the Queen's approval. An informant and a trader, Geezy had smuggled Gurkins off Tortuna and Galaxy Rangers into the Psychocrypt. Anyone who lives two lives is bound to be paranoid. It looked like Geezy's paranoia had saved his life — again.
"You two make sure Goose gets back to the ship," the captain ordered. "I'm going after Geezy."
"Not alone you're not," Niko protested.
She eased Goose's head off her lap and stood up.
"Yes, alone," Zach replied firmly. "There's no sense all of us risking our necks and I'm best equipped to get through the debris." He touched his badge without activating it; then began walking toward the ruptured wall of the cabin.
"Niko, I need your help with Goose," Doc said quietly.
Niko was torn between helping two men she cared about. The decision was lifted from her shoulders when Brutus fell into step beside Zachary.
"Where do you think you're going?" Zach asked.
"Wherever you go. It's in my job description," the horse replied stolidly.
"You're not indestructible," Zachary argued.
"Neither are you," Brutus replied in his booming, no-nonsense voice. "At least I'm entirely metal."
"And what do you think you'll be able to accomplish inside? You don't have any hands to rescue a victim."
"True, but I know where the victim is!" Brutus said, his sensors flashing triumphantly.
Zach peered through the gaping rent in the cabin's side. All he could see was smoke.
"Then lead the way," he surrendered.
He twined his fingers in Brutus's white mane. Linked, the two powerful entities entered the inferno.
Relieved that Zachary had a companion on his dangerous quest, Niko turned to help Doc.
The computer expert had bandaged Goose's chest tightly, so his broken ribs wouldn't shift or grate.
"Help me get him on Triton," Doc said.
They wanted to lift him gently, but that wasn't easy when they had to raise Goose almost to the height of their heads to get him on Triton's slick metal back. To make matters worse, Goose began to wake up and fight the hands that confined him.
Doc thought the whole scene looked like a comedy routine — but it wasn't funny.
Brutus could have simply walked through the burning rubble, but he steered a zigzag path to keep his human friend out of danger.
Zachary was grateful for his Zangwill disguise. The thick scarf kept some of the smoke out of his lungs while the heavy folds of the calf-length robe protected him from the licking flames.
However, nothing was going to protect him if the creaking, visibly trembling roof collapsed, he thought, eying the sagging timbers warily. The broken-backed beams quivered just a foot above the captain's head, which was about as far as he could see in the dense smoke.
"Which way?" he shouted over the fire's roar.
Brutus paused to double check his sensors, then led the ranger toward the natural cavern at the back of the cabin. Zachary was relieved the moment they stepped into the rocky cavern and out from under the roof.
"In here, sir," Brutus said, nudging a blast door that had been knocked half off its hinges. It sagged, blocking the doorway.
Zachary thumped his badge to power up his bionic arm. Together, he and Brutus muscled the foot-thick, steel door out of the way.
The small room inside was in shambles.
"Geezy!" Zachary shouted.
A groan followed by a cough was his only answer.
The ranger captain located the source of the sounds beneath a heap of furniture. Poking out of the rubble was the woeful tip of a Pendulant's snout, a cross between a pig's nose and an elephant's trunk.
Despite the blast door, the explosion had picked up Geezy and his furniture and thrown them in a corner. Fortunately, the table had come to rest leaning against the wall and a chair. It formed a kind of tent with Geezy beneath it and had protected the Pendulant from most of the debris.
Zach began to remove the furniture from the four-foot-tall Pendulant. First a floppy-tipped ear came into view, then a lock of brown hair in the middle of an otherwise bare, pink forehead. Geezy opened large, dazed lavender eyes.
"What are you doing?" he asked, recognizing the ranger beneath his Zangwill disguise. He had been expecting the rangers, after all.
"I'm trying to rescue you," Zachary replied.
Geezy peered around the smoke-filled, blast-damaged room.
"All you hummings are crazy!" he said.
"Humans, Geezy. All us humans are crazy," the captain corrected the alien.
"That's what I said — crazy," Geezy confirmed.
Zachary helped the short, chubby Pendulant to his feet.
"I hope you can find the door again, Brutus," the ranger said.
"Of course, sir, it's …" Brutus' head tilted up. "Look out!" The metal horse shied backwards, forcing Zachary and Geezy away from the door.
"It's all right, Shane. You're among friends," Niko said.
"Hold still, my Goose-man," Doc protested.
Hearing his friends' reassurances, Goose relaxed. The rangers lay him back on the ground to get themselves sorted out.
"How do you feel?" Niko asked.
"Like a ton of bricks fell on me," Goose said, wincing at the pains in his chest and head.
"More like a quarter ton of horse," Voyager said brightly.
"Voyager!" Niko scolded.
"No, she's right. I fell on you, Goose," Triton said mournfully.
Goose stroked the forelock on Triton's lowered head. "No, I remember what happened. You didn't fall. You were thrown on top of me. It wasn't your fault, buddy."
Triton gave an electronic sigh of relief at Goose's forgiveness.
"This is very pretty," Doc said. "But we've got twenty-seven Crown Agents closing fast and I, for one, don't intend to throw confetti on them when they arrive."
"Then let's get out of here, Doc," Goose said reasonably.
He tried to rise, but Niko and Doc had to help him up; then boost him onto Triton.
"Can't you bend down any farther?" Doc asked the horse.
"I am sorry, but the blast seems to have damaged the joints in my knees," Triton apologized. "I am afraid if I get down, I won't be able to get up, and we do not have Captain Fox and Brutus here to lift me up again."
For the first time, Goose realized the group was missing its leader.
"Where's Zachary?" he asked, clinging to the saddle horn, refusing to mount without an explanation.
"He went after Geezy," Doc said shortly.
Goose looked at the smashed, smoldering cabin incredulously.
"In there?" he asked.
Doc nodded. "In …" With a rumble like distant thunder, the cabin collapsed. "… there," Doc finished faintly.
Coughing from dust and smoke, Zachary studied the mountain of debris that was now blocking the doorway.
"Geezy, you paranoid Pendulant, I hope you have a back way out," the captain said.
"Ranger humming, that was the back way out," Geezy said mournfully.
To be continued
A/N: I didn't write the song. It's from an episode.