Ranger Ranger drove up in his salties to the End of the World Burn and never went back to default, like so many others. There was nothing left to go to, and everything left out in Black Rock. Like so many others, he went to work: unlike so many others, he kept his job. Here at the end of the world, the punks who built Black Rock City washed up in Burn City, and the Rangers washed up wherever the rest of the Burners clung to life in the Nevada Desert, in their state of Anarchy.
There weren't so many of them, now. The line between Ranger and cop was thinner than most them liked, those days, but it beat the shit out of the few remaining LEOs who'd tried, briefly, to ride herd on the place.
"Fuckin' Ranger Ranger!" was belted out more often than not when he drove up in his old biodiesel Dodge to any of the various Ghettos littering Anarchy. There was no question who he worked with, or where he worked, or why he carries an AK.
There's people out here who have guns, too, not just Rangers or LEOs, there's that, but they don't tend to outnumber the Rangers. It's a problem, maybe, down the road, but that morning, Ranger Ranger is among friendlies in fine old Burn City, and his truck is running fine, so it's not trouble he's inclined to borrow.
But there's someone’s crying in the medical clinic set up behind the Last Chance Saloon, and it sounds familiar. "Hey now," he hears as he ducks in, "Hey now, it's alright."
"I can't," sobs the girl. Hanna, that's the girl's name. If he recalls, she's the girl with the brains to stock up on hair dye (currency here, for sure) - but not a tight enough hold to hack it on the night shift, the power shift, the road shift - any shift, really. Nightmares worse than Ranger Ranger’s own, or Tits McFlea, who saw some shit before she got Home. "I can't do it! I've tried and I've tried!" The green dot glances at him as he comes on over to the chair, the huddled, miserable kid who's not, at the end of the day, that much older than Ranger Ranger. "I don't want make trouble, I promise, I just can't!"
"So you can't stay here," he points out, and the green dot looks exasperated with him. Clearly it's his days to harsh some mellows before he smooths 'em back out. "But that doesn't mean you've gotta be trouble." She looks up at him, hangdog.
"I'm not sparkly," she sniffles. "I don't want..."
"Who said anything about sparkly?" He shrugs, amiable. "You know the rules, kid. We ain't got money, honey, but we've got work and food for it. You know what your job is now?"
She's still crying, but she's listening at least. "You're going to go pack out of the barracks and come on walkabout," he tells her.
"And then what?" she sniffles.
"Well," says Ranger Ranger, "How about we worry about that after that?"
Blue-haired girl's got a duffel, badly-patched, and the standard suitcase of water you get when they invite or tell you to leave Burn City. Ranger Ranger doesn't bother asking if they gave her the MREs and space-age blanket too: he knows the warehouse leads live and die by checklists here. She knows the score: drops the bag in the back of the old, much-patched Dodge, gets in the cab at a nod of his head.
The truck starts like a dream. "Fuck yer shift, fuck yer city!" are the friendly yells on out the gate. One of the Burn City day-shift types in a technicolor beret yells something with blue-haired girl - Hanna's - name as they pass the guard shack. Sounds encouraging. She doesn't notice.
"If it's all the same, I'd like to die on the playa," she sniffles. Still crying.
"I think," he says, fingers drumming on the wheel, "We can camp there tonight. Up to you if you feel like wandering off, but I could use some company on my round." He makes the turn on the 447: off north, towards beyond Gerlach, towards Fly Ranch, not the turn towards Entire.
She stares at him. "I'm not sponging off you!"
"Didn't ask you to," he says, amiable. Picks up his old iPod, thumbs through the contents. "You like Queen?" She doesn't answer - she's staring out the window - but she's quiet. Suits him.
They hit the first Gate Road out onto the great flat open of the dead lakebed, the playa, Home, before too long, and her tears have dried up.
Flash Gordon's theme blaring with distortion, they blaze a trail of alkaline dust out into the shadowless expanse of ivory cracks and perfect blue sky, leaving Gerlach, Burn City, and the old highway behind.
After a dinner of canned beans for him and MRE for her, Ranger Ranger locks his AK in the toolbox of the truck, and falls asleep on his foam mat in the bed. If the girl cries herself to sleep under the space blanket, head on her duffel, he doesn't hear anything. But she's still there in the morning: even made a fire before he gets up, and she's quiet enough, tending her little burner and patrolling her little space for any stray hairs, any bits of thread from her duffel, any sign they camped on holy Black Rock.
He drives on, her in the passenger seat. She doesn't cry, that day. Doesn't say much else, either. He turns Queen up, blasts off across the dead lakebed in any which direction he wants.
South turns out to be the direction he wants, and the sun billows golden in the sky like the eye of God on sinners at the end of the world.