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MIKEBROOME

Tales From the Nordic Troll #4: Man-Made Monsters (part 1)
Friday, August 23, 2013

As he noticed the tattoo, Gerrin froze, the color draining from his face. “Uvazhyemye Gospoda, nyet (Dear God, no)” he whispered. The crew looked at him. “What’s wrong?” Gerrin looked up, his face ashen. “It’s Irina”. “Who’s Irina?” Aldous demanded. “My sister!”


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3044    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

It was the start of a bad few days…

The converted transport Nordic Troll had set down on Whitefall, a moon of the planet Athens frequently attacked by Reavers. Normally the ship and her crew avoided places raided by Reavers, but when work was slow, as it had been lately, scavenging in hazardous places was sometimes necessary.

The small town they had set down next to had definitely been hit very recently. Several wooden buildings had been partially burnt. Others had windows knocked out and doors broken down. Mangled bodies littered the street, mostly human but some horses as well. The deathly silence and smell of blood throughout the town heightened the tension among the crew.

Jamie Reilly, thief and right hand to the captain, and Anna Howard, ship’s cook and steward, cautiously stepped through the broken door into what had been the town’s general store, guns drawn. Looking around, Reilly ordered “If you see anything moving that’s not us, don’t hesitate to shoot”.

Anna wrinkled her nose. “It stinks in here. I wouldn’t touch anything that’s not in a can”.

“Got it”. Reilly finished scanning the room and stated “We’re clear here. Let’s grab what we can and get back to the ship”.

“Not quite clear” Anna said in a hushed voice. Reilly looked at her and noticed the color had drained from her face. He followed her gaze to the counter where a body, ripped open at the chest and missing the legs and arms lay sprawled backward in a dried pool of blood. Reilly pulled Anna away. “Don’t look at it”. Turning her toward the shelves, he added “Just concentrate on what we’re here for”.

Across the street and two doors down, Nick Gerrin, ship’s captain, and Loomie Gavigan, stood by a work table with tools scattered across the top. Nervously holstering her gun, she picked one up and said “You think we can get Aldous in here? This place is a little creepy and I don’t know what’s useful”.

Gerrin looked at her. “I would have thought Aldous had taught you something about mechanics, what with all the time you two spent on other ships before ours”.

“He taught me some of the basics, but nothing really specific. Let’s get him in here”. Gerrin turned toward one of the cabinets. “I need Aldous checking that parking lot out back” he replied. “As soon as we’re sure the town’s clear, he can double back and check this place out”. Opening the cabinet, he turned back to look at her. “For now, just take what looks good. We’ll sort it all out later”.

“Yeah” Loomie said under her breath. “That helps a lot”.

Outside her brother Aldous, the ship’s mechanic, moved cautiously among several small vehicles followed by the ship’s medic, Heather “Doc” Marshall. Doc carried a shotgun, which she slowly swung over the area of the lot to cover Aldous. As a medic she normally did not like to carry weapons, but since there was a chance they might be attacked by Reavers, she was glad to make an exception. She kept a cautious eye on the area as Aldous, armed with a hand gun, checked in and around each vehicle for useable parts and ambushers.

Aldous moved through the lot, carefully searching wheeled and hover-capable vehicles alike for possible booby-traps. As he searched, he said “So far they’re clean, and I don’t see a lot here we can use. I say we clear this lot and go back with the others”.

“No argument from me” Doc agreed. “I don’t see why we came here in the first place”.

“Yeah, it ain’t the safest place in the ‘verse, but there’s stuff we need, so…” he let the rest of the sentence trail off.

“Right. Let’s get this over with” Doc continued. “You find anything yet?”

Something caught Aldous’s attention. “Maybe” he murmured. Weaving between vehicles, he moved toward the center of the yard. Stopping in front of one, he groaned “Gos-se”.

“What?” Doc moved toward him to see what had put him on edge. As she approached, she saw it: a savage-looking makeshift hover craft with three seats. The craft resembled a one-man rocket sled with a single-man pod sloppily welded onto either side. The two side pods sported two guns each, one a common machine gun, the other resembling an old-style harpoon gun from ancient sailing ships. The entire ship was streaked with blood. Doc froze as she saw the sled and announced slowly “I think it’s time to go”.

“No argument from me” Aldous agreed and turned to run. As he turned, three figures sprang from behind nearby vehicles emitting animal roars. Doc and Aldous immediately raised their weapons and fired at the three attackers. Two of them dropped as soon as the bullets hit them. The third wove it’s way between the vehicles between it and it’s intended victims. Aldous turned to run, while Doc was already ducking around the vehicles toward the edge of the lot.

The rest of the crew heard the roars and the shots. Running from their buildings, Gerrin and Loomie and Reilly and Anna looked first at each other, then turned their attention up the street toward the parking lot. “Let’s move!” Gerrin yelled, breaking into a run up the street, followed by the rest of the crew. They had only taken a few steps when four more figures burst from broken doors and windows in the buildings on either side of the street. Gerrin and Anna were first to react, firing at two of the attackers. Both went down. A third came at Loomie, who started backing away in terror. Gerrin swung his gun around and took aim at the approaching Reaver, but before he could fire, the fourth attacker jumped on his back and screamed. Reilly shot the Reaver coming at Loomie, but due to their close proximity, no one could get a clear shot at the one hanging on Gerrin, clawing and biting at him. Gerrin continued to spin, trying to dislodge the rabid animal on his back. Finally Gerrin deliberately jumped and fell on his back, knocking the wind out of his enemy and causing it to loosen it’s grip on him for a second. Gerrin twisted and knocked the Reaver on the temple several times, finally knocking it unconscious.

Anna helped Loomie to her feet, as Reilly did the same for the panting Gerrin. Loomie, visibly shaken, blurted “Oh, God, oh, God, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t ready for that”. To the captain she asked “Are you okay? I’m really sorry, I’m not good at this kind of thing”.

“I’m all right, Loomie” Gerrin stopped her. “It just surprised me, that’s all”.

“I’ll be the judge of that” Doc broke in, reaching Gerrin and twisting his head to examine the scratches and bite marks from the Reaver. “Some of these gashes are pretty deep. I want to get you back to med bay for treatment”.

Gerrin pulled away. “As soon as we get what we came for”. Turning toward the fallen attacker, he said “We’ll have to do something about this one, though”.

“It would be best just to shoot it and move on” Reilly suggested. “It’s already mad beyond repair”.

“I know”. Gerrin squatted beside the unconscious body and examined it. “Keep a gun on it, just in case it comes to”. He reached down to check it for weapons. As he moved the right arm, something caught his eye: a partial tattoo beneath the scarred and desecrated skin on the upper arm. As he noticed the tattoo, Gerrin froze, the color draining from his face. “Uvazhyemye Gospoda, nyet (Dear God, no)” he whispered.

The crew looked at him. “What’s wrong?” Gerrin looked up, his face ashen. “It’s Irina”.

“Who’s Irina?” Aldous demanded.

“My sister!”

...To Be Continued.

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