Tales From the Nordic Troll #4: Man-Made Monsters (part 6)
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

As they turned to face each other, River suddenly looked old and tired, as if she had aged years within seconds. Her voice became pained. “I have memories that aren’t mine, and I don’t want them, but they’re there. They’ll always be there. I know things that scare me. I’ve done things that scare me, and I can’t change any of it…I can’t go back like I was”. Gerrin’s tone softened somewhat. “So what do you do?” River smiled wistfully. “My captain likes to say – ‘When you can’t run any more, you crawl. And when you can’t do that, you find someone to carry you’. Either way it’s the same – you just go on” she said.


“I don’t even know how she got out of the restraints”, Simon winced.

It was the middle of the night as Doc patched the head wound Irina gave Simon when she escaped from the med bay and went after the Reavers. “I didn’t even turn my back on her for that long”.

Doc turned to examine the restraints attached to the bed. “From the looks of things, she found something to cut through the straps. After that, well…” she left the rest unsaid.

“But how did she get a knife when we were watching her the entire time?”

“She’s savage, not stupid”, Doc replied as she finished taping the bandage to Simon’s head.

“Yes,” Simon agreed. “I can vouch for the savage part”.

Doc stepped back. “Whatever was left of Irina inside,” she said, “it was strong enough to make her want to protect her brother. So, she found a way”.

“I just wish she could have found a way that was less painful”, Simon winced, gingerly touching his bandaged head.

Doc pointed to his damaged arm. “Just be careful with those stitches”, she reminded him.

Simon nodded. After a moment he asked “How is your captain?”

“I gave him a sedative”, Doc answered. “He should sleep through the night”.

“Good”. Simon considered what she had said. “This is going to be hard on him for some time”.

“Yeah”, Doc sighed.

Morning broke several hours later with the Nordic Troll sitting outside the town where it had landed two days ago. Aldous and Reilly left after breakfast to check the Tams’ shuttle for bobby-traps.

Gerrin had slept through the night but was still inconsolable in the morning. After he woke up, he avoided everyone, disappearing somewhere inside the ship. No one saw him for several hours.

Loomie found him in the engine room, sitting on the deck propped up against the port engine, a large makeshift mug in his hand. “Captain?” she started cautiously. ”Nick?”

“Whah?” Gerrin growled.

She stepped over to the still and turned the tap, observing that nothing came out. “Aldous and Jamie called. They’re checking the Tams’ shuttle now”.

“Good for them”.

Loomie walked over and sat down beside him. “Their ship will be passing overhead in about four hours, so they can lift off in about three”.

“Shiny”, he grunted.

Loomie reached out to touch Gerrin’s shoulder. “You should get some rest”.

Gerrin jerked away. “Don’ need rest”, he growled.

“You don’t need to keep beating yourself up, either. You did everything you could do” she said gently.

“Yeah, well it wasn’t enough, was it?”

“You can only do so much. You’re not God”.

“God?” Gerrin looked at her and snarled. “There’s a God? Well, where is this God? Where has he been the past few years? We play by the rules and we get humped! We try to do right and we get humped! And where is your God while this is going on? Turning his back on those who need him! What kind of a god does that?”

“I just mean-“

“I don’t care what you mean!”

“Hey! I’m only trying to-”

“Why don’t you just get out of here?!? Go – fly something!” Gerrin snapped at his pilot.

Loomie stared at him, hurt, and stood and walked away, tears welling up in her eyes. Gerrin tilted the mug toward his mouth again, then looked into the mug when nothing came out. As he dropped his arm and the mug to the deck he was oblivious to the approaching footsteps. The footsteps stopped and a female voice said “You won’t find them in there”.

Gerrin looked up to see River Tam standing beside him. “Your answers”, She continued.

He growled “Answers? There are no answers. People give pretty rosey speeches and as soon as you drop your guard and trust them they knife you in the back”.

River looked at him questioningly.

Gerrin continued in a surly tone “I believed in them, served them, and they threw me to the wolves to cover their own stupidity. My sister believed in them, went to work for them and they turned her into an animal. They humped us both real good, and I’m the one who set us up for it. Now how do you suggest I get over that?”

“You don’t”, she said simply.

Gerrin responded by glaring at her. She continued “You just go on”.

Gerrin looked away as River sat down beside him. “You’re not the only one”, she said quietly, gazing off into nothing. “They brought me to a school…but it wasn’t a school. They told us all how special we’d be, then they did things to us, programed us, turned us into weapons. They put things into our brains…memories, thoughts…”. As they turned to face each other, River suddenly looked old and tired, as if she had aged years within seconds. Her voice became pained. “I have memories that aren’t mine, and I don’t want them, but they’re there. They’ll always be there. I know things that scare me. I’ve done things that scare me, and I can’t change any of it…I can’t go back like I was”.

Gerrin’s tone softened somewhat. “So what do you do?”

River smiled wistfully. “My captain likes to say – ‘When you can’t run any more, you crawl. And when you can’t do that, you find someone to carry you’. Either way it’s the same – you just go on” she said.

““That sucks”, Gerrin murmured absently.

“You have no idea”, River responded as the two of them sat there.

Aldous and Reilly returned two hours later. Climbing the cargo bay ramp, Aldous reported “It’s clean. No booby traps or anything. Guess they were more interested in us”.

Gerrin had spent the two hours sobering up, but was still unsteady as he asked “Any signs of the Reavers?”

Reilly hesitated before responding “Several bodies, all hacked up, but none of them were Irina”.

Gerrin took a moment to comprehend this. Finally he said “Good enough. Tell the Tams they can lift off whenever they’re ready”.

“Right”. Aldous started for the ladder. Reilly continued to stand there. “Don’t say it”, Gerrin said with a trace of guilt.

Reilly eyed him reproachfully. “I have only one thing to say: get it together”. And with that, Reilly headed for the ladder.

An hour later the Tams and the crew stood in the cargo bay. “Well, doctor, you’re good to go”, Gerrin said. “Your ship’s contacted us and they should be at the rendezvous point in thirty minutes. “So…” He held out his hand. “Good luck, and thanks for what you tried to do”.

Simon took his hand. “Thank you, captain. And if anything like this ever happens again, don’t hesitate to get on the comm and call a different doctor”.

Gerrin smiled somewhat sheepishly. “Sorry about the hard time”.

Simon became serious. “I would have reacted in the same way. Good luck”. Simon turned to go.

Gerrin turned to River. “Good luck, and thanks for bringing him”. He extended his hand again.

River took his hand and pulled him close. Putting her other arm tightly around his shoulders, she said softly into his ear “Just go on”.

“Workin’ on it”, he replied.

“It gets easier”, she said as she let him go.

The rest of the crew looked at them but said nothing. Once they finished their goodbyes with the crew, the Tams departed for their shuttle. The shuttle lifted off several minutes later without incident.

The Nordic Troll left Whitefall shortly after the Tams departed. Two hours out into space Gerrin headed for the cockpit to relieve Loomie.

On the way to the cockpit he encountered Aldous. “You feeling any better?” Aldous asked.

“Good enough to fly”, Gerrin answered him.

Aldous glanced in the direction of the cockpit. “She’s not feeling too friendly toward you right now”.

Gerrin nodded slowly. “Understandable”.

“I think you owe someone an apology”.

“I’m working on that right now, Aldous”. As he started toward the cockpit, Gerrin heard Aldous mutter under his breath "Nee boo go guh, nee hwun chiou (You don't deserve her, you fink)".

“I said, I’m working on it”, Gerrin retorted over his back without breaking stride.

Gerrin climbed the ladder into the dim amber glow of cockpit. Loomie sat in the pilot’s chair, her back to Gerrin. Gerrin looked at her uncomfortably. Finally he said “Ready to be relieved?”


Gerrin paused. “I guess I haven’t exactly been at my best lately”, he ventured.

Loomie’s voice remained frosty as she continued to look at the console. “Yep”.

“Obviously I was way out of line back there”.

“Keep going”, Loomie said cooly.

“Okay, I was a HOE-tze duh PEE-goo (monkey’s ass). It’s just that…with Irina and the alcohol and everything…well, I guess you get it. Family’s all I had”.

Loomie turned and looked at him severely. “You know, you’re not alone, here. You have family on this ship: people who’ll watch your back if you let them”.

Gerrin hesitated. “That didn’t’ work out so well for me the last time. So trust is hard sometimes”.

Loomie’s face remained stern. “This ain’t last time, it’s this time”.

As Loomie stared at Gerrin, he finally relented “I’ll try to do a better job of remembering that”.

Loomie relinquished the pilot’s seat to Gerrin. “You got it”, she said.

Gerrin sat down as Loomie walked toward the ladder. Before she left, Gerrin added “For whatever it’s worth, you’re the best pilot I’ve ever flown with”.

Loomie left without responding: she wasn’t going to let him off the hook yet.

Gerrin settled in for the rest of his watch, glancing over the controls. Before long he started scrolling through the communications logs.

It was the end of a bad few days…

The End (for now)


Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:35 PM


This story was inspired in part by stories of families of alcoholics and drug abusers trying to cope with the effects of addiction that trickle down on the families. The Simon and (especially) River Tam connection was inspired by an article in the Washington Post several years before 9/11 about American Vietnam veterans who signed up to go overseas and council Russian soldiers returning home from combat in Afghanistan.


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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…

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 1)
Reilly struggled ferociously to break free. As he jerked and pulled against his attackers, he felt the sharp prick of a needle entering his neck. Reilly’s muscles began to feel numb and heavy. The hallway started to spin. Through a growing fog he could hear the contact admonish him loudly “It’ll only be worse if you fight it”. . . . . .

Reilly’s arms grew heavier. His eyes started to cloud over. "Tah mah duh hwoon dahn (Mother humping son of a bitch)", he slurred angrily. "Huogai daomei (You deserve whatever’s coming to you)”. . . . . . .

“It ain’t me”, the contact apologized. “It’s just good business”.