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

Aldous began to look the vehicle over. Halfway through his inspection he looked at Reilly. “You think he’ll have to put her down?” - Reilly nodded gravely. “Most likely”. He paused before adding “And it’ll kill him”.


“This day just keeps going sideways”.

Aldous and Reilly had returned to town to scavenge for parts. Each of them had a pistol strapped to their leg while Aldous carried a shotgun slung over his shoulder and Reilly carried an automatic rifle. As they waded among the vehicles he had been inspecting earlier, Aldous kept commenting on the status of their day while Reilly, for the most part, agreed. “Right now, I think we’d have been better off getting out of here when it started going bad. That’s all I’m saying”.

“You said so yourself”, Reilly remarked. “As short as we are on supplies we wouldn’t have gotten far. Parts we could do without, but food, we needed”. Pointing at one of the vehicles, he asked “How about that one?”

Aldous shook his head. “Too small, not enough cargo space”. Continuing his search, he resumed the conversation. “Okay, I get that we needed food, but why here? Isn’t this where you got dumped when they let you out of jail?”

“They didn’t ‘let us out’”, Reilly answered curtly. “They dumped us here because they knew Reavers hit this place from time to time”.

Aldous looked at him. “Seriously?”

Reilly nodded contemptuously. “Our glorious Alliance figured that their little pit monsters would take care of the surplus prison population”. Pointing to another promising vehicle, he asked “That one?”

Aldous bent down into the vehicle and froze. “No”, he said slowly. “Booby trap. See?” he pointed. “There, by the accelerator. The box with the oily-looking wires coming out. Start it up and it’ll blow”.

Reilly followed his gaze. “So, what do we do?”

“Just back away and don’t even touch it”. Aldous stepped back slowly. “So, how’d you get off this rock the first time?”

“By chance, some scavengers came by and we were able to barter passage off this rock. We worked for them until we found a better deal, and so on, and so on, and here we are”.

“So why stay with him?”

Reilly looked up. “The best way to survive is to have people around you you can count on. He’s had plenty of chances to hump me. He’s never tried”. As he continued to move between vehicles, he added “Besides, someone has to keep him from shooting himself in the foot”.

Aldous didn’t get that. “Huh?”

“That’s how he got to where he is: putting too much faith in perfect ideals and the wrong people”.

“Right”. At the edge of the lot, Aldous finally found what he was looking for: a two-seater with a large cargo bed. “There”, he pointed, “That one”. Moving closer, he examined the vehicle. “It’s a loader, it’s big enough, it’s a ground-runner, so if it’s not booby-trapped, it’s the one”.

“Okay. Check it out and let’s go. We still have stuff in the shop to move, and it’ll be dark soon”.

“I know. I picked most of it out”. Aldous began to look the vehicle over. Halfway through his inspection he looked at Reilly. “You think he’ll have to put her down?”

Reilly nodded gravely. “Most likely”. He paused before adding “And it’ll kill him”.

After a moment’s silence Aldous returned to inspecting the vehicle. “Keep an eye out for bad guys”.

“Right”. Reilly stood guard while Aldous inspected the loader for traps and problems.

River and Loomie sat in the Troll’s cockpit, talking about their jobs, their crews and whatever else came to mind. River, for the most part, conversed normally. “A dragon fart and a surface skim?” River laughed. “An axle twist and a chicken run. He spins off into a rock”.

“Yeah”, Loomie countered, “But I’d done it before and I knew I could pull it off this time”.

“’You are an eagle and the wind is yours’”, River smirked.

“Something I picked up on another job”, Loomie recounted. “Hey…how did you know about that?”

River pondered how to answer. “I…pick up on things”, she finally responded. “It’s like, a crowded room where everyone’s talking”.

“You mean you read their thoughts?”

“Sort of…like…I’m the Cortex and they’re all terminals, and everything comes in at once.” River saw that Loomie didn’t quite get it. “I know” she conceded. “It’s confusing”.

“Wow. Sounds like it would drive most people crazy”.

River looked solemnly at her. “You have no idea”.

“So, how do you deal with it?”

“Having something to do helps. Sometimes you just fill your head with silence”.

“And that works?”

River shrugged. “Mostly”.

“And your brother?”

River snorted “Hardly”.

Loomie looked at her curiously. “He only reads books”, River quipped.

Anna and Lewis, having nothing else to do, started straightening up the cargo bay. They had put away the crates they had used as a table and benches, and were looking around for anything that looked out of place. They pushed a few small crates against the walls, located several loading straps and strapped them down using the fastening eyelets on the walls and in the deck.

Lewis pointed at several small boxes. “What about these? Hang them up?”

Anna looked at the boxes, then to the ceiling, three meters above, where several small boxes hung in a bundled net. “I don’t want to climb up there if I don’t have to”. She glanced around the deck. Pointing to two crates sitting side by side, she said “Let’s put them on top of those until we see what Aldous and Jamie bring back”.

“Okay”. Lewis picked up the first of the boxes and moved to where Anna had pointed.

Manhandling the box onto the crate, he remarked “So how does that happen? The captain has a Reaver for a sister?”

Anna picked up another box. “She went to Miranda”, she said evenly. “You know what happened there”.

“I know, I saw the cortex,” Lewis conceded, “but most of them just laid down and died. How did the others go so wrong?”

“Some of them reacted the wrong way. Something about certain people”.

“So, why is she still here?”

“The captain needs to try to save her. It probably won’t work, but that’s just how it is. Now, change the subject”.

Lewis shrugged. “Fine. But what happens if she get loose?”

“Just stay close to me and away from med bay”, Anna answered. “Things could get wild around here”.

“Does that mean I can have a gun?”

Anna replied sharply “No”.

Doc, Gerrin and Simon remained in med bay while Simon continued to work on curing Irina. Gerrin sat on a stool as Doc busied herself by checking the bandages on his earlier wounds.

Simon looked into the worn microscope that belonged to the med bay. “You know,” he commented, “this would be a lot easier if we had access to the proper facilities”.

“The ‘proper facilities’ would’ve put a dozen bullets in her if she got near the door. Ow!” Gerrin winced as Doc checked his wounds. “How much longer is this going to take?”

“One minute longer for every minute I have to tell you how long it’s going to take”, Doc replied placidly. “You should’ve let me take care of this when it first happened”.

Gerrin dismissed the comment with “I was busy”. As Doc finished, he stood up. “Well?” he asked Simon. “Anything?”

“Well, other than the need for a tetanus shot, she’s physically okay. As for the neurological effects, there is no way to tell the extent of the damage without a thorough imaging scan of her brain.”

“Any way we can bring her just out of it enough so we can get some more information?”

Simon looked up at Gerrin. “I wouldn’t advise it at this point”, he replied.

Gerrin offered “Well, she lived on Miranda while it was happening, so she might know something about how they did it”.

Simon considered this for a few seconds. “Well, there are certain trauma medications that would stimulate brain activity just enough to where she could respond to simple questions. Unfortunately in this case, I would also have to knock out some of her motor functions to keep her from trying to disembowel us all when she comes to”.

Gerrin turned toward Doc. “Doc?”

Doc answered “We can use a local to keep her still, and we have that batch of Amytropylene we found at our last stop, but it’s two months beyond it’s effective date.”

“Break it out”.

Doc looked from Gerrin to Simon. “I still wouldn’t advise it, captain”, Simon said to Gerrin. “We can’t be certain what effect it will have, if any”.

Gerrin eyed him. “According to you, she’s beyond repair, so it can’t hurt her much”. His gaze hardened. “Can it?”

Simon and Doc looked at each other. “Set up an injection”, Simon said. “But only 30cc’s, I want to bring her out slowly. Have a sedative ready in case she becomes aggressive”.

“Yes, doctor”. Doc pulled an empty syringe from a drawer. Opening an adjacent drawer she pulled out a small bottle and stuck the needle through the top. Once she had drawn the required liquid from the bottle, she replaced the bottle and handed the syringe to Simon, who had just injected Irina with the local anesthetic. Simon took the syringe and injected Irina in the right arm. Simon looked up. “This will take a few minutes”.

“We’re staying right here”, Gerrin replied levelly.

The intercom crackled. ”Hey”, Aldous’s voice came over the speaker. “Can somebody come down here and open the door? We got a lot of stuff to bring in here”.

Gerrin pressed the intercom button. “You know the combination for the door. What’s the problem?”

“We need the ramp door open”, Aldous answered. “We had to get a loader for the stuff we got”.

Ta ma de”, Gerrin let out an exasperated sound and punched the button. “Hold on”. Rising from the stool, he left med bay and marched down the passageway to the ladder to the cargo bay. As he reached the bottom of the ladder he heard several sets of footsteps behind him. “What, no one answers the door around here any more?” he growled to no one in particular.

Loomie, Anna, Lewis and River chimed in unison “Sorry”.

Gerrin moved to the console and punched the buttons that unlocked and opened the cargo bay hatch. The motors rumbled and the hatch slowly lowered to the open position, revealing a nearly dark sky outside. As the top of the hatch reached the ground, a two-man cargo loader putted loudly up the ramp, driven by Reilly. Aldous walked up the ramp as Reilly parked the loader and shut down. Aldous reached the console and hit the buttons to close the door. Gerrin waited for the door to close before saying “What’s this?”

“We had a lot of salvage to bring back”, Reilly reminded him, “and Aldous wanted the loader”.

“You know this could be useful on some of our jobs”, Aldous joined in.

Gerrin looked at the loader. “We’ll talk about it later”. Turning toward the ladder, he ordered “For now, get it unloaded and get it tied down. I’m going back to med bay”.

“So, no change in your sister?”

Gerrin stopped at the bottom of the ladder and turned back, clearly annoyed. “No, Aldous, no change in my sister”, he growled. Starting up the ladder, he continued “And before you ask, yes, that means we’re staying here a little longer”. He disappeared through the hatchway.

Aldous stared after him. “Yep”, he sighed. “This day just keeps going sideways”.

. . . . . . . . To Be Continued.



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Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 5)
“We ain’t gonna hold ‘em back, there’s too many”, Roy cried. - - - “Then it should be harder for you to miss!” Aldous shot back. - - - “I think we might need to get outta here”, Roy protested. - - - “Gorram it”, Aldous snapped, “just keep shooting!” As he finished loading and turned to fire he muttered to himself “Gos-se! This must be what it feels like to be Nick”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 4)
“People”, Gerrin continued, “we got things set in motion, we got a plan that’ll work, but we’re not going out there alone. Now, are you in or are you out?” - - - - The assembled farmers looked at each other. Five raised their hands. “I’m in”, they proclaimed one at a time. - - - - “What about the rest of you?” Gerrin demanded. - - - - The rest sat there, silent. - - - - Gerrin eyed them contemptuously. “Envy the country that has heroes, huh?” he growled. As he turned and stormed toward the door he added “Pity the land that needs ‘em”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 3)
The leader whipped out his gun and aimed toward Reilly. “Where’s my men?” He snapped. - - - Reilly looked around him. “Swallowed by darkness?” he offered. - - - “Gettin’ smart, huh?” The leader cocked the hammer on his weapon. “Well, I still got you now, don’t I?” - - - “Only two problems”. Reilly raised his hands holding the rope he’d been bound with. “I’m untied”. - - - The leader stiffened and cocked his head. “What’s the other one?” - - - Reilly gestured. “They’re here”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 2)
“Gentlemen“, Shepherd McGarrity started, “this won’t-“ . . . . “Shut it, preacher”, the leader snapped, turning his gun toward McGarrity. “Your services ain’t needed...” He raised his weapon. “…yet”. . . . . “Oh, that just won’t do”, Gerrin chided as he cocked his head. “I suggest you apologize to the Shepherd and take your leave before something bad happens to you”. . . . . “Take ‘em!” the leader roared as he whipped his pistol toward Gerrin and fired.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 1)
“Don’t worry, captain”, McGarrity called back, gesturing to the man beside him. “I think this gentleman might have something a little more in line with your crew’s particular set of skills”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 6)
Both ships were close enough to be clearly seen in the pilot’s window. “Might be a good time to turn”, Reilly commented nervously.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 5)
Bullets bounced off the hood and sides of the truck as Gerrin sped toward the far end of the building. Wilkins, perched on her stomach in the bed, maneuvered a small 10-liter plastic barrel with a fuse in the end toward the lowered cargo gate in back of the bed. Pulling out a lighter, she lit the fuse as Gerrin, firing from the driver’s seat, suddenly swerved away from the building.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - # 8: Business as Usual (part 4)
Whump! - - -
Reilly fought to keep from uttering a sound as the fist of one of Reznor’s men struck him in the stomach again. Reilly raised his eyes toward his captor and sneered “Trying to torture me or tease me?”

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 3)
Jacko slowly withdrew his hand from the box, producing a cigar, his eyes never leaving Gerrin’s. Placing the cigar in his mouth, he reached down and picked up a small, gaudy-looking lighter, which he also made a show of displaying for his unwelcome visitors. Producing a flame under the cigar, he puffed several times. Finally satisfied, Jacko leaned back in his chair and remarked to Gerrin “You don’t take instructions well, do you?”

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 2)
He felt something that could have been an electro-mechanical door bolt just as he became aware of a growing hum beneath the deck plates: a ship’s engines starting up. Okay, Reilly thought, this could be a problem…