BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MIKEBROOME

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #5: Sidetracked (part 2)
Tuesday, January 21, 2014

No one paid attention to a passenger kneeling away from the others rearranging his belongings. Reaching into one pack, he pulled forth a small sealed pouch emblazoned with the official emblem of the Alliance, marked EYES ONLY, NO COPIES, in English and Chinese. Looking around him, he tucked the pouch into a smaller bag.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2501    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Gerrin and Anna stood by the cargo bay door as their “cargo” migrated up the cargo bay ramp out of the rain – passengers. Some dragged wheeled luggage along behind them, some carried small packs on their backs. “Just passengers?” Anna asked.

“Well, a job’s a job”, Gerrin shrugged. “Besides, we’re getting twenty five percent of what Baresh charged these people”.

Anna looked at him. “I thought you wanted thirty?”

“Certain compromises had to be made”, Gerrin admitted.

As they observed their passengers Aldous crossed the cargo bay toward them. “Captain, we’ve got a little problem” he said in a low voice. “Someone went in the engine room and stole my– “ he looked around to see if anyone else was listening “ -recreational programs”.

Gerrin fought the impulse to smile. “I don’t think anyone here would really be interested in your – ‘recreational programs’, Aldous”.

“I’m telling you”, Aldous insisted, “there’s a thief around here somewhere. I had that stuff locked up in the storage cabinet and now it’s gone”.

Gerrin turned to him. “Cabinet broke into?”

Aldous shook his head. “They picked the lock”.

“Nothing else missing?”

Aldous thought for a second. “Not that I noticed”.

“We’ll look around for them, then”, Gerrin assured him. “Just do me a favor and don’t do any ‘recreating’ while we have passengers on board”.

“Can’t now”, Aldous frowned.

“Let us get these people settled in and I’ll help you look”, Anna offered.

At that point one of the passengers, a woman in an expensive coat with delicately finished blonde hair, approached them. “Are you the captain of this – vessel?”

Anna and Aldous pointed to Gerrin. “Yes?” Gerrin asked.

“Captain, I have certain concerns about the accommodations on this ship. I’m used to a slightly more refined atmosphere when I travel, and a simple cot in some corner just won’t do”.

Gerrin looked at her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name”.

The companion looked at him as if she couldn’t believe the question. “I’m Shayla Inabran. Surely you’ve heard of me?”

Gerrin paused before he shook his head. “I’ve been companion to heads of state”, she continued condescendingly. “I’ve escorted leaders of industry on luxury cruises, and this-“ she gestured around the cargo bay in distaste “-simply will not do”.

Gerrin raised both eyebrows. “And why is that?”

“Well, for one thing, it smells like pigs in here-“

“We cleaned the cargo bay after we got ’em off this morning”, Aldous informed her stiffly.

“-and for another the entire ship looks as if it hasn’t seen a wrench or a sponge in years”.

Aldous stepped forward to snap a reply but Gerrin stopped him. “I admit, she’s no luxury yacht, but she runs just fine, and she’s got adequate berthing facilities on board. We’ll get you where you need to go on time”, Gerrin added smoothly. “And you’ll be bunking with our outstanding pilot Wayloo Marie Gavigan”.

“’Wayloo Marie’?” Inabran scoffed, looking at Gerrin, then at Aldous, then back at Gerrin. Finally she huffed “Well, I guess it will have to do. You’re lucky I’m in a hurry”. With that, she turned and walked primly toward her belongings, piled neatly on the cargo bay floor.

“Oh, yeah, this is going to be a fun trip” Aldous grumbled.

“Don’t worry about it, Aldous, we’ll get through this” Gerrin reassured him. Turning to the intercom box, Gerrin picked up the handset and pushed the button. “Loomie, we’re almost ready. Give us ten more minutes and then put us in the sky”.

Harashow, captain”, Loomie responded.

Gerrin puzzled over her use of a Russian word for a second, then dismissed it.

No one paid attention to a passenger kneeling away from the others rearranging his belongings. Reaching into one pack, he pulled forth a small sealed pouch emblazoned with the official emblem of the Alliance, marked EYES ONLY, NO COPIES, in English and Chinese. Looking around him, he tucked the pouch into a smaller bag.

Twelve minutes later the Troll lifted off from the pad in Greenbrier, departing Jiangyin.

An hour later Gerrin and Anna stood with the passengers in the ship’s lounge. The guests sat on one of the two sofas on either side of the room as Gerrin addressed the passengers from in front of the large viewscreen on the bulkhead opposite the door. “We’ve arranged accommodations for most of you, but we’ll still have to set a couple of you up in one of the empty parts lockers. Don’t worry, we’ll make it as comfortable as possible”.

Two of the passengers raised their hands. “Sir, we used to be soldiers, so we’ll take the parts locker. We’re used to it”.

Gerrin nodded to them. ”Thank you for volunteering, we’ll make it as easy as possible”.

Two more passengers, a man and a woman, spoke up. “Captain, we have a few things we need to store somewhere safe”, the woman addressed him.

Gerrin’s brow furrowed. “Are these things that shouldn’t be on my ship?”

The man spoke. “Nothing sinister, captain, the lady is a doctor on a humanitarian mission and she has certain supplies that shouldn’t be left out in the open”.

Gerrin answered “Oh. Well, anything the doctor wants to keep locked up can be stored in our med bay with our medic”. Turning to address the rest of the room, he continued “The rest of you, feel free to store anything you don’t need in the cargo bay. It’ll be quite safe”. Finished, he concluded “Now, I’ll let you get back to sorting your things”. The passengers stood up and started toward the door, with Gerrin and Anna in the rear. As they exited the room Gerrin noticed his ship’s medic, Heather “Doc” Marshall, marching down the passageway dragging young Lewis Howard. “I just caught this one stealing from med bay”, Doc said angrily.

What?” Anna exclaimed. “I don’t believe it”.

Gerrin waved them all back in the room. Stepping through the door, he said sternly “Lewis, were you stealing from the med bay?”

Lewis stood in the middle of the room looking embarrassed. “Lewis”.

“I was”, Lewis admitted.

Lewis!” Anna exclaimed.

Gerrin’s tone remained stern. “Want to tell me why?”

Lewis looked at Gerrin shamefacedly.

“Answer the question, Lewis”.

Lewis finally responded. “Jamie’s teaching me how to steal”.

Anna’s eyes widened. “Jamie’s teaching you what?”

“Jamie’s teaching me how to steal”, Lewis repeated.

“Not in my med bay”, Doc remanded.

“Lewis”, Anna addressed him sharply, “we do not steal from friends, and we do not steal on this ship. Do you understand me?”

“I was gonna give it all back”, Lewis protested. “It was just for practice”

“Put it all back right now”, Gerrin commanded. “And you’ll be pulling some extra chores for this”. Looking at Doc, he added “I got this, Doc”.

“Thank you”, Doc responded, almost sincerely, as she turned and walked toward med bay.

Turning his gaze toward Anna Gerrin added “You take care of him, I’ll take care of Reilly”.

“Oh, you can count on it”. Anna took Lewis by the arm and led him, pouting, out of the lounge.

Gerrin sighed, stepping through the door “One of these days I’d like to have a nice boring trip”. He noticed the man who had stood with the doctor approaching. “You have a very interesting crew here, captain”, the man said.

“Yeah, they’re all unique in their own way”, Gerrin admitted.

The man extended his hand. “I’m Shepherd McGarrity, and I couldn’t help overhearing. I take it that since you have a minor on board, each of your crew is seeing to his education”.

Gerrin paused before accepting the hand. “Well, we haven’t really established a curriculum, yet”.

“Yes, but certainly the rest of his studies involve reading, writing and arithmetic?”

“Shepherd, we’re not training him to be a delinquent, if that’s your worry: Loomie and Aldous are versing him in math and mechanics, Doc and I work with him on the reading and writing. He’s already good with a computer, and his mother is teaching him more practical domestic skills. He’s in good hands”.

“I see” McGarrity mused. “Perhaps there’s something I could do to help?”

“Don’t worry, shepherd, we can look after our own. Now if you’ll excuse me, dinner’s in fifteen minutes”. Gerrin finished as he turned toward his own room.

Fifteen minutes later the crew and passengers assembled in the mess area. Happily the crew had recently replaced the pull-down tabletops from the walls with an actual dining table in the center of the room. The crew and passengers each pulled out their chairs and sat down to the table.

Inabran inspected the contents of the plates on the table. “Pork?”

Anna responded “Yes, our last cargo was livestock and our customers made an agreement to pay us partially in food stocks. Those food stocks included pork”.

“Hmm”. Leaning close to Gerrin, Inabran quietly commented “Captain, you do realize that pork is for peasants?”

Gerrin bristled but kept his composure. “Well, madam, you’re under no obligation to consume said pork”. Turning his attention to the rest of his crew and passengers, he announced “Ladies and gentlemen, meals here are a fairly simple affair, but you’ll find our cook, Mrs. Anna Howard, is more than competent at preparing edible sustenance. However, if any of you have special dietary needs, we’ll do our best to meet them”.

The female ex-soldier, a stocky woman with short brown hair, spoke up. “This you have here looks pretty good, sir. Might even make us want to stay on”.

The assembled party chuckled quietly. “I think we could possibly send a copy of the recipe home with you, miss-“

“Wilkins, sir”, the woman responded.

“Wilkins”, Gerrin repeated as he started filling his plate. “I’ll remember”.

Shepherd McGarrity broke in “Before we dig in to this feast, captain, is it all right if I say Grace?”

“Say it quietly”, Gerrin eyed him.

Taken aback, the Shepherd nonetheless bowed his head, as did several of the crew and passengers. Gerrin watched quietly as the participants prayed silently for several seconds. Once they finished, everyone commenced to eating and talking.

Reilly, freshly washed and back to his normal appearance, started the conversation. “So, what brings a shepherd and a doctor to a planet like Jiangyin?”

“Humanitarian trip”, McGarrity answered. “Doctor Kurtz and I were ministering to the needs of some of the less fortunate in the hills. Unfortunately, I don’t think they were going to let us leave when the time came, so we had to discreetly excuse ourselves from their service”.

“But why would they hold you there against you will?” Doc asked.

“They tend to hold on to whatever – or whoever - they need”, Kurtz responded.

“Hardly sounds civilized”, Inabran mused.

Gerrin started to say something when the other former soldier, a dark-haired man named Park, jumped in. “Hill people like to lead a simpler life”. Looking around the table, he continued “They take the bible literally and like to keep few ties to technology, but sometimes they run into problems they can’t handle on their own, so they come out of the woods and take what they think they need”.

“They’ll hold on to it, too”, Wilkins joined in. “They think its 'god’s will'”.

“Did they try to hold on to you, too?” the doctor asked.

“We were working security for the port”, Wilkins answered. “We took the job after we got out, but it got to be more waiting for work than working, so when we got the chance to go home, we took it”.

“Sounds barbaric”, Inabran muttered under her breath.

Gerrin shot her a warning look and attempted to redirect the discussion. “And how about you, mister…”

The man claiming to be a courier looked up. “Me?”

“Yes, sir, you - mister…”

“Ammon”.

“Well, Mr. Ammon, what brings you out here?”

Ammon looked at Gerrin, his face unreadable. “Courier work”.

“Sounds interesting”, Aldous commented.

Ammon shrugged “Not really. You go where they send you, carry what they pay for, get it where it’s going, then you set up for the next run”.

“Nothing special, then?” Reilly joined in.

“This and that”, he replied. “Client confidentiality”.

“Oh”. Gerrin returned to the other passengers for the rest of the dinner.

Dinner passed with few minor disruptions, and everyone went about their after-dinner routine as Anna and Lewis began to clean up. On his way out Gerrin pulled Reilly aside. “What’s this about you teaching Lewis how to be a thief?”

Reilly answered “Part of his training. If he’s going to be part of this crew, he’s going to need those skills eventually”.

“No he won’t”, Gerrin answered. “Both of them are only here until they find something better, and that could be any time”.

Reilly eyed him. “It’s already been six months”.

“Just knock off the thieving lessons”, Gerrin said firmly.

“Fine”, Reilly sighed.

“Thank you”, Gerrin finished as he retired to his bed for three hours before taking the night watch in the cockpit. He never heard Reilly add “For now”.

Several hours later Gerrin was in the cockpit sitting in the pilot’s seat, idly watching the stars, when Loomie stormed into the cockpit with fire in her eyes. “I want that BITCH out of my room!” she demanded. “She’s impossible to live with, she’s rearranged my room, she’s put away stuff that doesn’t belong to her, I want her GONE!”

“Loomie, calm down-“ Gerrin started.

Inabran stomped up the ladder as Loomie was finishing her tirade and proclaimed “Captain, this person is INSANE! I can NOT be quartered with such a – lunatic!”

“Touch my things again and I’ll ‘quarter’ you”, Loomie snapped.

Ni mei benshi (You couldn’t if you wanted to)”, Inabran retorted.

“All right, STOP! Both of you!” Gerrin commanded. “Ms. Inabran, if your current accommodations aren’t to your liking, we can move you to another location in the morning, and that’ll settle it”.

“Well, it can’t be soon enough”. Inabran turned and marched down the ladder.

"Jien huo! (Cheap bimbo!)” Loomie yelled after her.

Gerrin darted for the hatch handle and jerked the hatch closed before Inabran could return and respond. Turning to Loomie, he took her by the shoulders and shepherded her toward the co-pilot’s chair. “Come on, Loomie, just let it go”. To distract her he asked “By the way, what’s with the sudden interest in my home language?”

“I just figured that since we’re heading to St. Ekaterina, I might want to learn some of the local language”.

“Any special reason?”

Loomie shrugged “Well, I thought it could be useful when we get there”.

“Useful”, Gerrin concluded. “So, what do you think you’ll be doing when you get there?”

“Umm…” Loomie searched for the words. “YA khachOO kurEET kraVAT.”

Gerrin stared at her. “You want to what?”

“What did I say?”

“You said you wanted to smoke a rug”.

“Huh?” Loomie looked confused. “I wanted to say ‘buy’”.

“It’s Ku-PEET, not ku-REET. Ku-PEET means ‘buy’, ku-REET means ‘smoke’”.

Loomie shrugged “Okay, well, I still have time to work on it” as she slid over to the pilot’s chair.

Gerrin smiled to himself. “Okay, have at it. You taking the watch now?”

Loomie huffed “Well, I’m not going back to my room while that biao-zi (whore)’s there”.

“All right, I’ll take care of it”. Gerrin departed down the ladder.

Gerrin had barely made it to his room when Loomie called on the intercom. “Captain!”

Gerrin reached for the button. “I’m right here”.

Loomie’s voice sounded anxious. “We’ve got something behind us. Aft port quarter low. Looks like a ship of some kind”.

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

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