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MIKEBROOME

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #5: Sidetracked (part 6)
Sunday, March 30, 2014

Gerrin turned to look out the door. “I’m not looking for salvation that never comes". After a short pause he continued "People just drop the name to get others to jump through hoops, then when they do something they don’t want to own up to, or that blows up in their faces, they play it off as ‘God’s will’ - or someone else’s fault. Sorry, I don’t feel like playing that game any more”. - - - - McGarrity moved beside him. “You’re denying God because of the actions of men, son”. After another pause, he added “Consider the possibility that maybe your problem is with the messengers, rather than the message”.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2542    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The Nordic Troll sailed silently through space, her destination a small bright half-disc directly in front of her. Throughout the ship the passengers were packing their things in preparation for departure in several hours.

Gerrin entered the cockpit, moving slowly. “Hey, flygirl”, he greeted Loomie as he sat down in the co-pilot’s seat.

Loomie sat, piloting the ship, staring out the window in front of her. “Hey, cap’n”.

“I heard you had some trouble while we were gone”, Gerrin said.

“Yeah, nothing major”, Loomie responded matter-of-factly.

“You kinda went full burn back there”, he commented. “You okay?”

“Yeah”, she shrugged. “I just had a bad day, that’s all”.

Gerrin looked at her for a second before starting “You know, if I’d known about this earlier-“

Loomie held up her hands “I’m shiny, Nick. Really. I knew you’d have our backs, somehow”.

“Yeah”, Gerrin conceded. “Just took a little longer than I wanted”.

Loomie smiled at him. “Worked out in the end, though, didn’t it?”

“Yeah, it did at that”. Standing, he said “Let me know when we’re about to hit atmo”. As he turned toward the ladder, he gently squeezed Loomie’s shoulder as he passed. She reached up with her hand, squeezing his in return.

Reilly stood with Doc in med bay, handing her the green bottle he had borrowed from her when he had “escorted” “Jeffe” into the woods. “You were right”, Reilly told her. “He got about half a click into the jungle when the stuff hit him and he was out like a light”.

Doc eyed him. “You only used the dose I told you to, right?”

“I’m a thief and a grifter, Heather, not a killer”, he admonished her. “Besides, we had nothing to gain by taking him out. Letting him go gave the Alliance something to chase after”.

“Right”, she agreed, putting the bottle back into its drawer. “But remind me again how that was supposed to work?”

“Simple”, Reilly answered as they stepped into the passageway. “We take ‘Jeffe’ into the jungle, he takes a nap, he wakes up and goes after his people. He frees them, they get their ship, they take off after us. They find an Alliance frigate in orbit waiting for them”.

“Which came in response to our distress call”, Doc surmised.

“Exactly”, Reilly nodded. “The frigate goes after them, they run. If and when the frigate catches them, a boarding party searches the ship and finds the pouch the data drive was in, stuffed in their refuse tank”.

“But why the refuse tank?”

Reilly shrugged “If you want to hide something, the best place to do it is somewhere no one wants to go. Unless you’re up against someone who’ll go there anyway. So, they find the pouch and start questioning the crew. The crew say they know nothing, but the Alliance doesn’t believe them, so they drag the crew back to base for a lengthy interrogation and dissection of the ship. Meanwhile, we have time to get that drive to someone who can help us decrypt it and find out what’s on there that the Alliance doesn’t want anyone to know”.

Entering the dining area, they both stepped over to the coffeepot bolted to the forward bulkhead. Reilly reached up above the pot and unsnapped the strap that secured his favorite cup firmly to the bulkhead. Doc reached for hers as she commented “That’s all fine and good, but this is high-tech Alliance stuff. Who do we know that could decrypt that drive?”

“Oh”, Reilly answered, “I have a couple of associates from the old days that could help us out”. Turning the tap on the coffeepot, he continued “The captain’s going to work on getting our next job running somewhere closer to the central planets so I can wave the people I need for this”. Seeing nothing coming from the pot, he scowled “Why doesn’t anybody refill this gorram thing when they empty it?”

Anna’s voice sounded sternly from the galley “Feel free to take it upon yourself. And whoever was in my kitchen, I’d appreciate it if next time you put it back the way you found it”.

“Sorry”, Doc chimed apologetically.

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

The Nordic Troll descended through a cloud-scudded sky over St. Ekaterina to land in the city of Novrodina. She settled between two of the terminal buildings on to the pad, kicking up snow and dirt from the scattered piles cleared from the landing site. Several minutes later, the passenger door in the cargo hatch opened, and Gerrin and Aldous, encased in coats and hoods, stepped out the door into the cold, breezy air. “Well, welcome home”, Aldous commented.

“Not exactly”, Gerrin commented, looking around. “I grew up in Bryansk”.

“Where?”

“Bryansk. It’s a city thirty miles from here”.

“Well, close enough. Going into town?”

Gerrin shrugged “We’ll see”.

They stepped back into the cargo bay as Shayla Inabran, encased in her own coat and dragging her bags, crossed the cargo bay. Gerrin, ever the diplomat, said “Good bye. Hope the rest of your trip is uneventful”.

Inabran stopped in front of him. “’Uneventful’?” she glared. “‘UNEVENTFUL?!?’ This was easily the WORST trip I’ve ever been on, and YOU were personally responsible for placing me in needless danger, and, I guarantee you, you and your crew will answer for what you did out there”.

Aldous started forward, but Gerrin stopped him. “I got this”, he told his mechanic. “Be scarce. Go take care of the fueling arrangements”.

Aldous shot a glaring look at Inabran and departed through the passenger door. As soon as he was gone Gerrin checked the cargo bay and, seeing they were alone, advanced slowly on Inabran. “We had a working plan out there, and every time we put it in motion, you did everything you could to cock it up”. Still moving forward, he slowly pushed her against the cargo bay door. “We had to improvise the whole plan and start over every time you tried to push everything your way. Now, if you want to blame me for how it played out, fine. Send your friends after me all you want. But if you touch my crew, I’ll take you down in a way that makes a Reaver look like a fuzzy bunny rabbit”. Bringing his face to within an inch of hers, he added menacingly “I’m really good at getting in under the radar, and I know how to inflict horrendous pain when I need to”. He released her. “Now, you need to go before I decide to demonstrate”.

With dread growing in her eyes, Inabran moved in a circle around him to her bags, gathered them up, and exited the passenger door quickly as Gerrin followed her to the door.

Das Vidanya”, Gerrin called after her.

Her voice faded as she retorted “I should have known. Another Yak”.

“A Yak is a large hairy buffalo!” Gerrin snarled at her retreating back. As Inabran disappeared, he turned back into the cargo bay, grumbling "Jien huo (Cheap bimbo)” as Shepherd McGarrity approached across the cargo bay. “Well, captain,” he ventured, “things seem to have worked out well”.

“Yeah”, Gerrin conceded, “considering we made the whole thing up as we went”.

“Well, things usually work out the way they’re supposed to. We don’t always have to understand the method to the madness”.

Gerrin’s demeanor soured. “Shepherd, don’t go there. I doubt that what happened out there was of any God’s will: the ‘Verse ain’t that poorly put together”.

“Yes,” McGarrity nodded, “I had a chance to talk to some of your crew. They think very highly of you, but say you’re rather short on faith lately. They also told me why”. He paused before adding gently “I’m sorry about your sister”.

Gerrin turned to him sharply. “That’s not a subject open to discussion”, he said sternly.

McGarrity continued “But one you will have to deal with, sooner or later. Trust me: I know”.

Gerrin turned to look out the door. “I’m not looking for salvation that never comes". After a short pause he continued "People just drop the name to get others to jump through hoops, then when they do something they don’t want to own up to, or that blows up in their faces, they play it off as ‘God’s will’ - or someone else’s fault. Sorry, I don’t feel like playing that game any more”.

McGarrity moved beside him. “You’re denying God because of the actions of men, son”. After another pause, he added “Consider the possibility that maybe your problem is with the messengers, rather than the message”.

Gerrin stared at him. After a moment he said “You’re a good man, Shepherd. I’ll think about it. That’s the best I have for now”.

Park and Wilkins approached them from across the cargo bay, carrying their bags. “Well, gentlemen,” Park announced, “I guess this is it. We’re going into town to find a place to stay, then we’ll start looking for work”.

“Around the docks is probably the best place to look”, Gerrin offered. “Used to be when I was younger. Well,” he held out his hand, “good luck to both of you. You’re good people, and any decent employer would be lucky to get you”.

“Thank you, captain”. Park shook his hand.

“Thanks, captain”, Wilkins followed suit. “All things considered, it was a good trip”.

Gerrin smirked “Not so much, but thanks, and good luck”.

“Good luck, you two”, McGarrity echoed.

Park and Wilkins pulled the door to as they exited the ship. Gerrin turned to McGarrity. “Well, Shepherd, I guess that leaves you and the doctor”.

Looking toward the ladder, McGarrity mused “Yes, I guess I should be getting ready to go”. Facing Gerrin, he added “I hope you’ll think about what I said. Oh-“, he continued, “Loomie seem quite taken with you: the two of you would go well together”.

Gerrin rolled his eyes. “Not you, too”.

“Just something to think about”. McGarrity turned toward the ladder.

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

Thirty minutes later Gerrin, Loomie, Doc and Reilly gathered in the cargo bay to say goodbye to the last of their passengers. Dr. Kurtz shook hands with all and said “Thank you for getting us this far, captain. All things considered, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been”.

“Thank you for that concession, doctor”, Gerrin answered. “Good luck on the rest of your trip”

“Be safe, you guys”, Loomie added.

“You too, little one”, McGerrity responded. Turning to Gerrin, he said “Take care, captain. I hope you’ll think on our little talk”.

“Just be safe out there, Shepherd”, Gerrin replied.

They departed through the door as Gerrin and his crew watched from the door. “Well, back to business as usual”, Doc commented.

“Whatever ‘usual’ is”, Reilly countered.

Aldous returned to the ship a minute later. “Well, fueling’s all taken care of. They’ll gas us up in two hours”, he reported. Looking back at the door, he added “That the last of them?”

Gerrin nodded.

“I’m gonna miss them”, Loomie sighed. As the thought crossed her mind, she added “Well, most of them, anyway”.

“Well, having a companion on board would lend us a certain respectability”, Reilly joked. “Think we should find Inabran and ask her to stay on?”

The assembled crew chorused a resounding “NO!

……..The End (for now)……..

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