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MIKEBROOME

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #5: Sidetracked (part 5)
Thursday, March 13, 2014

Stopping thirty feet from the door, “Jeffe” bellowed “All right, amigo! I tried to do this easy, now we do it hard! You have ten seconds to come out and drop your weapons or I shoot the girl!” He leveled his weapon at Inabran’s head as she exclaimed “You’re as devolved as they are!” - - - - From his hiding place, Gerrin pondered “Think anybody’d miss her?” - - - - “Tough call” Wilkins opined from behind him.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3273    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“So, what’s the plan?”

Loomie and Doc stood at the table in Anna’s kitchen compartment alongside the mess area, preparing food for their captors, making as much noise as possible without trying to seem too obvious. The two pirates guarding them had disappeared somewhere inside the ship. Doc was taking her time with the food. “I’m thinking” she answered Loomie. “I have to find a way to get to med bay without them knowing about it”.

“Why? What’s in med bay?” Loomie asked, clanking a metal spoon around the inside of a half-filled bowl.

“Something to put them out”, Doc answered.

Loomie put the bowl and spoon down and stepped over to peek out the galley door. “Well, they’re not out there right now”.

Doc slipped in behind her. “No telling when they’ll come back, though”, she mused. “I suppose I could make a run for it and hope for the best”.

“Hey!” a voice yelled from somewhere in the passageway. “Get back at it!”

“I thought they’d gone somewhere”, Loomie murmured sourly as they returned to their work. “Now what do we do?”

They both heard a faint knocking noise in the vents. Looking up, they both saw Lewis, squeezed tightly into the ventilator shaft, peering out the overhead grille. “Lewis?” Loomie asked in a hushed voice. “What are you doing up there?”

“Aldous had me cleaning the reclaimator and then the captain called over the PA. I tried to clean up and get down to the cargo bay, but then these guys with guns came through and I had to hide”.

Doc continued making noise to cover their voices as she stared at Lewis through the grating. “Listen to me, Lewis. Were you practicing stealing earlier?”

Lewis paused before nodding.

“Did you take that thing they’re looking for?”

Lewis paused again before admitting “Yeah”.

“When?”

Another pause. “While everyone else was at dinner”.

Doc thought for a second. “Alright. Never mind that now. Can you make it to med bay without getting caught?”

Lewis looked up the vent duct. “It’s tight, but I should”, he answered.

“Good. Get up there and get to the cabinet on the inside bulkhead. In the second drawer from the left, there should be a small green bottle. Get it and bring it back here as fast as you can”.

“Okay”. Lewis paused before starting up the shaft. “I need something to spring the vent cover at the other end”.

Doc looked around the galley. Spotting a table knife, she picked it up and bent the blade to an angle halfway down the blade. Close to the handle she bent it again, until the tip was at a right angle to the handle. “Here”, she said, handing it through the grating to Lewis. “This should do it”.

“Thanks”, Lewis replied. “I’m gone”. With that he started to inch his way up the narrow vent shaft. Loomie and Doc listened as he moved up the shaft, keeping a slow but constant rhythm to his movements. “You think he can make it?” Loomie asked.

“I hope so”, Doc mused. “Otherwise, we’re humped”.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

“I can’t believe that worked”, Reilly mused as he helped tie up one of his pirate guards.

Gerrin had had Aldous switch clothes with one of the pirates who had been holding Park, Anna and Shepherd McGarrity and pretend to have captured Inabran trying to escape. They then moved to an exposed clearing ahead of the group and waited to be spotted. Aldous had told Inabran “Just be your annoying overpriced self”, which, as Gerrin had hoped, was all it took to set Inabran off again. The last two pirates had heard Inabran yelling and one had come to investigate. When the first man didn’t return after several minutes, the second had herded Dr. Kurtz, Reilly and Wilkins in the direction the noise had originated from. The second man and his captives found Aldous and Inabran in the same place, with Inabran still ranting. As they approached, Aldous had turned slightly toward him and called out “Oy! You wanna give us a hand, here?”

“What’s the problem?” the guard called back.

“Oh, come ON”, Inabran exclaimed, turning toward the guard, “are you really that stupid? If you’re going to fall for a trick like that, you deserve to get your brains beat out”.

The guard instantly raised his rifle. Gerrin crept up behind the guard and slapped him on the back of the head. Surprised, the man turned toward Gerrin. Gerrin immediately landed a right cross on the man’s jaw, knocking him sideways. The guard recovered and turned his rifle toward Gerrin, but before he could fire, Wilkins crashed into him, knocking the guard to the ground with her on top, bringing her fist hard into the man’s temple. The guard winced and went limp.

They began tying up the guards as Gerrin recounted the recent events for Reilly, Kurtz and Wilkins. “So, I was acting like a bit of a lout-“

“What do you mean, ‘acting’?” Inabran glared.

Gerrin glared sideways at her, then continued “misdirection works: if they think you’re dumb, they won’t expect anything smart”.

“Well, there’s very little danger of that”, she drawled sarcastically.

Gerrin turned to face her. ”You want to stay here, is that what you’re saying? Because I can make that happen”.

“You were paid to give me passage back to civilization, and I’m going to get it!”

“Oh, you’re going to get it, all right”, Gerrin warned her. Turning to his crew, he said “Now, let’s get back to the ship and figure out what we’re dealing with”. Looking around, he asked “Any ideas which way you came?”

They all looked around. Most of the trees and undergrowth looked the same. Looking back in the direction they had come from Reilly commented “If we go back up that slope, we may be able to see the ship from the top”.

“Right. Let’s do it”. Gerrin turned and started up the slope.

The rest of them fell in behind him. As they walked Anna came up beside Reilly. “I’m not sure I like you teaching my son to steal, while we’re at it”.

“She’s right”, Aldous looked over his shoulder at Reilly. “What’s the thinking here?”

Reilly answered “Situational ethics: it’s a skill he’s going to need in his current situation”.

“And what situation is that?” Anna demanded.

“You’re currently flying with people who have to smuggle and sometimes steal to survive”.

Anna answered “We’re not going to be here forever. Once we find the right place to stay, we’re gone. Then Lewis is going to have to deal with-“ she chose her next words carefully “-people with a different set of priorities. What happens then?”

“And then he gets into even more trouble”, Aldous broke in.

Reilly looked at him. “And how do you figure that?”

“You don’t think maybe Lewis took this thing they’re looking for for homework?”

“I never told him to practice on passengers”, Reilly informed him hotly. “I only said to take things without getting caught and then put them back”.

Aldous snorted “Yeah, that worked out great, didn’t it?”

“Why?” Reilly retorted. “Were you hoping to act out a movie for the passengers?”

“People,” Kurtz broke in from in front of them, “maybe this is an argument for another time. Shouldn’t we be thinking about getting the ship back first?”

“She’s right”, McGarrity added from behind them. “Our current situation does seem a bit more pressing, don’t you think?”

THANK YOU”, Gerrin called back.

Anna, Reilly and Aldous looked at each other and fell silent.

As they reached the top of the hill, they all looked about. Park caught it first. “That way”, he pointed, “Between the two largest trees. You can just see the hills we landed in front of”.

“Good job”, Gerrin patted him on the back. “Let’s go, everyone”.

“Amazing that you found it at all”, Inabran grumbled.

Gerrin turned and stepped toward her with fire in his eyes, as Wilkins stepped forward to block his path. “Captain, you mind if I handle this?”

Gerrin looked at her for a second, then gestured toward Inabran, a move that said “Be my guest”.

Wilkins turned to face Inabran. “Do you really think I’m going to be intimidated by some blunt instrument who couldn’t find a real job?” Inabran sneered.

Wilkins reached out and pulled Inabran slowly forward by her camisole top, bringing their faces to within inches of each other. Pointing a finger in the companion’s face, Wilkins ordered quietly but firmly “Shut it now, or I’ll shut it for you”.

Arrogant as Inabran was, her companion training had taught her to know when someone was sincere, and Wilkins’s face showed that she meant every word she had said. The fire in Inabran’s eyes faded and she put up her hands. Staring Inabran down, Wilkins silently released her and jerked her thumb in the direction the others were walking. Inabran fell in at the back of the line, pouting but holding her piece, with Wilkins behind her.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The two pirates seated at the mess table gorged themselves as Loomie and Doc stood by, looking from their captors to each other and hoping the added drugs would take effect soon.

Lewis had indeed managed to sneak into med bay through the ventilation system without getting caught. He had found the bottle Doc had requested, re-entered the vent shaft and slithered back to the galley, passing the small bottle to Doc twenty minutes after leaving for the med bay.

“Good job, Lewis”, Doc acknowledged quietly. “Now seal up the vent and stay there until one of us calls for you. Is that package of theirs anywhere they might find it?”

Lewis nodded. “I got it-“

Doc raised her hand. “I don’t want to know. Just keep it safe until I call for you, or your mom or the captain”.

“Okay”. Lewis pulled the hanging vent grating into place with Loomie’s help and disappeared. Loomie looked at the bottle in Doc’s hand. “What do we do with that?”

Doc opened the bottle. “Start stirring this into the food”, she said, pouring the contents into the bowl they were using.

The pirates who ate the food groused about how long it took but ate quickly and pushed their plates back. “That’ll do”, one said. Picking up his weapon, he continued “Now, back to work”.

“What about the dishes?” Loomie eyed him cautiously, staying just out of reach.

“Later”, the guard named José said.

Their next task was searching the crew’s lounge. Stepping into the room, Loomie said “No one’s been in here since we took off. Whatever you’re after, it ain’t in here”.

“You three are gonna look for it, anyway”, José rasped, looking past her.

Loomie and Doc looked at each other, then back at José, who was already looking glassy-eyed. ”Don’ remember sseeing you befforre” he continued, pushing past Loomie and Doc. “When you get here?” he asked the bulkhead.

Who is he talking to?, Loomie mouthed to Doc, bewildered.

He’s cooked, Doc mouthed back.

“How ‘bout…” José swayed, staggered backward, and fell to the deck, unconscious. His partner staggered forward, drooling “Whaschyou doodoo us?” and sank to the deck.

After a second Loomie remarked “Wow, that was fast”.

Doc reached down and slapped the second guard gently on the face twice. “They must have been in the still”, she commented. “Alcohol makes the effect faster and worse”.

“Okay, now what?”

“Now we have to figure out how to get the other one”.

“I think he’s still in the cargo bay” Loomie commented as they both leaned through the lounge door to peer through the dining area to the passage beyond. Turning the other way, they looked toward the cockpit ladder. Seeing no one, Doc decided “Okay, let’s go”. She crept through the door followed by Loomie. Creeping slowly along the passageway, they reached the cargo bay ladder before they heard a metallic *click* behind them. Doc winced, straightening up. “Well, it was worth a try” she commented wryly as they both turned to face the man the others called “Jeffe”. Neither of them expected to see Ammon standing beside him with a gun trained on them. “Ni shenme ne (What the Hell)?” Loomie blurted out.

“I had a change of heart”, Ammon informed them. “They seem to be on top of things right now, so I’m throwing in with them. Kind of improves my odds of living”.

Za-ZHONG (Bastard)”, Doc glowered. “HUOgai daoMEI (You deserve whatever’s coming to you)”.

“I’ll outlive you, though, won’t I?”

The one the others called “Jeffe” demanded “What did you do to my two men? It’s not good manners to poison guests, you know”.

Doc eyed him. “They’re knocked out” she answered slowly. “They’ll wake up in a few hours with a hangover”.

“You had better hope so”, “Jeffe” said threateningly. Taking out his radio, he called “Raoul, Sabél, get back to the ship. Bring your hostages with you”.

He heard only silence. “Raoul?..............Sabél?..............Raoul! Someone answer!”

Silence. He looked at Doc, who shrugged. “Something’s happening” he said to Ammon. Gesturing with his weapon at Doc and Loomie, he ordered “You two, downstairs”. He and Ammon herded the girls down the cargo bay ladder as Lewis watched helplessly from the ventilator shaft.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Gerrin and his party peered around the trees at their captured ship. The crew and passengers hid at the edge of the clearing where the Troll had landed. “Looks quiet”, Reilly mused.

“They’re in there”, Gerrin reminded him. “It’s only a matter of time ‘till they try to call their friends”.

“So, do we just wait?” Aldous joined in.

“Brilliant plan”, Inabran huffed. “We should be able to make it back to civilization in another hundred years at this rate”.

Dr. Kurtz, who had been mostly quiet until now, exclaimed “Oh, do you EVER shut up?”

“I can fix that”, Wilkins glared at Inabran.

Gerrin held up a hand to stop them. “We need to get in there without being noticed”, he thought out loud.

Go HWONG-TONG (Enough of this nonsense)”, Inabran growled as she stepped from behind the trees. “Watch and learn how it’s done”, she called over her shoulder as she marched through the knee-high grass toward the Troll’s closed cargo bay door. Gerrin and the others watched in shock and anger. Starting toward his ship, Gerrin gestured “Reilly. Park. Around the back, other side. Wilkins, with me”. With Wilkins following, he crept through the grass toward the side of the Troll, while Park and Reilly moved quickly and quietly around the rear. Inabran arrived at the passenger door, brushed off her clothes, adjusted her hair, and knocked on the door. Gerrin and the others waited alongside the ship as Inabran waited for a response. After a minute, the door swung open and the pirate called “Jeffe” appeared, his weapon trained on Inabran. “Where’re the rest of you?” He demanded suspiciously.

Smiling, Inabran began “Mister – um – Jeffe, your men have been overcome by the crew of this – ship. I’m afraid their captain is rather rash and reactive. However, I can see you are a more intelligent and reasonable – Hey!” she cried out as he grabbed her arm and dragged her back into the field. Stopping thirty feet from the door, “Jeffe” bellowed “All right, amigo! I tried to do this easy, now we do it hard! You have ten seconds to come out and drop your weapons or I shoot the girl!” He leveled his weapon at Inabran’s head as she exclaimed "You’re as devolved as they are!”

From his hiding place, Gerrin pondered “Think anybody’d miss her?”

“Tough call”, Wilkins opined from behind him.

Gerrin sighed “Well…let’s go, then”. Gerrin moved quietly toward the front of the ship, followed by Wilkins. Peeking carefully around the edge, he spotted Reilly and Park doing the same on the other side. The four of them looked toward “Jeffe”, facing the jungle beyond the clearing. Gerrin made a rising motion with his hand, signaling his people on the edge of the clearing to stand up. As they did, he motioned for Reilly, Park and Wilkins to move toward the two in the clearing. They closed the gap quickly and quietly as the pirate leader surveyed the crew and passengers at the edge of the jungle and bellowed “Where are the rest?”

Reaching the two of them first, Gerrin tapped the man on the shoulder and said “Right here”.

As “Jeffe” turned with his rifle, Gerrin pushed the rifle away with one hand, slamming his elbow into the man’s face. “Jeffe” fell back and swung his rifle toward Gerrin, but before he could fire, Park and Reilly grabbed him from behind. Gerrin stepped forward and stripped the rifle from the pirate’s hands. “Well, ‘amigo’, that was a nice try, but I’d like my ship back, now”. Jerking a thumb toward the jungle, he said to Reilly and Park “Take him into the jungle and tie him up. After we’re gone, we can call a patrol to come get him”.

“I’ll enjoy that”, Reilly commented as they started dragging the pirate toward the jungle.

Suddenly a shot rang out. They all looked toward the ship to see Ammon standing in the door, holding Loomie with a gun to her head. “No, that’s not going to happen”, Ammon surmised.

They all stared at Ammon and Loomie for a second before Gerrin asked levelly “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Switching sides”, Ammon answered. “I worked out a better deal with them than you can offer”.

Gerrin eyed him. “You do remember they were going to kill you earlier?”

“Semantics”, Ammon brushed it off lightly. “They have the upper hand now. Trading over’s the sensible thing to do”.

The one they called “Jeffe” shook himself loose and brushed himself off. “You should’ve seen that coming, amigo”.

Gerrin shifted his gaze from “Jeffe” to Ammon. “You think this is gonna work out for you? I count-“ he paused to count his people “- nine of us out here, and only two of you”.

“We have a gun on one of yours”, Ammon reminded him, “with another tied up in here, and one more somewhere in the ship. You really wanna risk their lives? Give me back that pouch”.

“Or…”, “Jeffe” broke in, “maybe the hiding one has the package. Maybe we take them, take your ship, get in your suits, and vent your people to space as soon as we leave atmo. How about that?”

Gerrin looked back and forth between them, his mind working feverishly. He finally said “You shoot her and you’ll never get that package”.

“Really?” Ammon scoffed. “And how’s that?”

“She’s the only one who knows how to get to it”, Gerrin said evenly. “Let her go, and she’ll get it for you. Then you can be on your way”.

Ammon looked at Gerrin suspiciously. “And I’m supposed to buy that?”

Gerrin gestured “You’re the one with the hostages, right?”

Loomie looked at Gerrin, confused. Gerrin stared hard at her, trying to communicate telepathically.

Ammon thought for a second, then eased his grip on Loomie, still holding the gun on her. “All right. You have one minute”.

Hoping Loomie’s Russian was far enough along, Gerrin ordered “Loomie, otkroytye bolshoi dvyer (open the big door)”.

Loomie hesitated. Suddenly, her eyes widened as understanding dawned. Turning and walking slowly into the ship, she approached the control panel for the bay doors. Feigning to reach for the panel above the door controls, she suddenly moved down and slammed her hand on the emergency release button. With a loud metallic crack, the bolts for the door crashed open, releasing the larger cargo bay door. The door swung freely downward, causing Ammon, standing in the passenger door, to instinctively duck as the large door crashed to the ground. “Jeffe”, standing just beyond the range of the door, jumped backward, as Reilly and Park leapt forward to grab him, wrestling his rifle from his hands again. Gerrin and Wilkins leapt for the ramp as Loomie jumped on Ammon’s back and pummeled him with one hand from behind. Before they mounted the ramp, Lewis, emerging from his hiding place, rammed Ammon in the knees, bringing him down on Lewis with Loomie still on his back. Ammon’s head hit the deck with a loud *crack* and Ammon went limp. Gerrin and Wilkins reached the spot where Ammon fell, with Loomie and Lewis on top of him Gerrin trained his gun on the unmoving Ammon. “Okay, Loomie, Lewis,” Gerrin said, “climb off him”.

Loomie struggled to pull her right arm out from under the unconscious Ammon. “He weighs a ton”, she remarked as she finally broke free. Standing up, she said sheepishly “Hi, cap’n”.

Gerrin looked at her “’Hi, cap’n’, that’s it? You two alright?”

Lewis stood up and brushed himself off. “Yeah, we had it worked out”.

“Right”. Gerrin looked toward his medic, bound and seated in the corner. “How ‘bout you, Doc?”

Doc held up her tied hands. “I’d be a lot better if you took these ropes off”.

Aldous and Anna were already heading toward her as Gerrin turned toward the unconscious Ammon, being tended to by Shepherd McGarrity and Dr. Kurtz. “Well?” he asked.

Kurtz looked up. “He’s going to have a nasty bump if and when he wakes up. I’d like to keep him in your med bay for a few hours for observation”.

Gerrin considered this. “Only ‘till he wakes up”, he finally answered. “Then he and his new friends are gone”.

“Captain”, McGarrity began, “I’d like to remind you that while you may feel the need for revenge, anything beyond what they actually did to you would lower you to their level, so you may want to consider your next actions carefully”.

Glancing out the door at “Jeffe”, still being held in the clearing by Reilly and Park, Gerrin remarked “Oh, I already have some ideas toward that score”.

…………To Be Concluded.

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