Tales From the Nordic Troll - #6: Baggage (part 5)
Friday, September 26, 2014

They continued to peer out the open door until suddenly hands grabbed both of them from behind and whirled them around. They faced two men, guns drawn, staring them down. “What the hell you doing on my ship?” the red-haired man on the left demanded.


“That wasn’t so bad”, Aldous commented, wiping his hands on a rag as they walked toward the town.

“How would I know?” Loomie asked archly. “All I did was hand you the tools”.

“Yeah, but you handed me the right tools”.

In the mid-afternoon heat they walked back toward the main part of town from the supply building where Aldous had just finished fixing a broken loader for the port control authority.

The foreman had paid them in Alliance script for their efforts which they had counted and split between them. As they walked away from the tower Loomie re-counted her half. “Anyway”, she mused, “I think we have enough for a decent place to stay, now”.

Aldous looked around him. “I don’t think this place has too many decent places to stay”, he mused out loud. “Better put that away, anyway”, he surmised, pointing at the wad of paper bills his sister held in her hand.

Loomie stuffed the bills into a secret pocket in her pants as Aldous did the same. They walked on, talking about where to look for food and lodgings. As they came to the other side of the square, two men walked up beside them. “I heard you two talking”, one of them began. “Sounds like you two are looking for work”.

“Depends on who’s asking”, Aldous began evenly as he and Loomie stopped.

“We’re kinda particular”, Loomie added.

“Well”, the stranger continued, “we got a couple of things lined up you two just might fit right into”.

Aldous grew suspicious as he heard two more men coming up behind them. “And what might that be?”

“Oh”, he started, tracing one finger up Loomie’s arm, “let’s just say it don’t need no special training”.

Two more men grabbed Aldous from behind as the first two pinned Loomie’s arms behind her. Loomie squealed, stomped one foot on one attacker’s foot, then immediately stomped the other on the second man’s foot. Both men screamed in pain and released Loomie as they reached for their damaged appendages. Aldous was not so generous: he brought one foot up and mule-kicked one man in the knee, then repeated the process with the second man. Both of his attackers screamed and dropped to the ground, with Aldous on top of them. Aldous’s head battered one man’s skull, causing him to lose his grip. The second man couldn’t hold Aldous by himself, and Aldous was able to pull himself free. Scrambling to his feet, he shouted “Let’s go!” and sprung toward the nearest alley. Loomie followed him at a sprint as their attackers tried to recover from their injuries.

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

The ground shook slightly as the Nordic Troll thumped to rest on an auxiliary landing pad in a mostly unused corner of the landing port in Novrodina. The several inches of snow on the pad produced an impressive cloud but provided little cushioning from the rough set-down.

Gerrin pushed the control column back and flipped several switches shutting down the engines as Lewis Howard called up from the engine room. “That was kind of rough”, he admonished.

“I got us here, didn’t I?” Gerrin rebounded firmly.

“Loomie never dropped us like that”, Lewis chided.

Anna Howard’s voice interrupted “All right, you two, don’t make me confine you both to your cabins. We have somewhere to be”.

“Right”. Gerrin stood from the pilot’s chair and turned toward the ladder.

He arrived in the cargo bay five minutes later to find Anna and Lewis already waiting beside their newly acquired vehicle. “Give me a second”, he said as he stepped to the intercom box. “Doc, you’ll be all right here by yourself?”

“Just lock up on your way out”, Doc’s voice came back. “And let me know how Loomie’s doing”.

Gerrin released the button for the intercom. “All right, let’s go”. Gerrin and Anna boarded the truck as Lewis lowered the cargo bay ramp. As the ramp touched ground Gerrin started the vehicle and backed it out of the bay into the chilly cloud-scudded day beyond. As the wheels touched the snow-covered tarmac Anna noticed something familiar in the side mirror. “Hey, look”, she commented to Gerrin.

Gerrin peered in his side window. Two familiar faces watched them from the other side of the gate. Bringing the truck to a stop, Gerrin opened the driver’s side door and stepped out. He walked toward the individuals standing on the other side of the gate.

“Morining, captain”, the male greeted him.

“Park. Wilkins”, Gerrin nodded toward the two.

“How’s business?” the male, Park, asked.

“You get good days, you get bad days”, Gerrin eyed the two. “You?”

“Mostly short jobs, nothing lasting, though”, Park commented.

Wilkins joined in tentatively. “What brings you guys back to town?”

“Had a job go sideways and Loomie got hurt”, Gerrin responded. “We’re on our way to see her now”.

Park and Wilkins showed concern. “She gonna be all right?” Park asked.

“Well, she should be. We’re just waiting to see when her doctor will release her to us”.

“Got room for two more?” Wilkins asked, nodding toward the truck.

Gerrin looked back toward his ship. “Well, most of them are at the hospital right now, and this is our main transportation”, he answered, gesturing toward the truck. “But we’re hoping to bring her home next time, if you want to wait around”.

“Mind if we wait on the ship?” Wilkins asked.

Gerrin considered this for a moment before responding “Sure. Just let me tell Doc you’ll be on board”. Turning toward the ship, he added “Lewis, why don’t you visit the little boy’s room before we go?”

“I just went”, Lewis replied.

“Go again, just in case”.

As Lewis sighed and fell in beside him, Gerrin walked to the passenger door. Pulling the door open and stepping inside, he said under his breath “Lewis, can you disable the engines so they won’t start? Just for now”.

Lewis looked toward the closed passenger door. “Yeah. Why? You think they might try something? They seem okay”.

“Just in case…”

Lewis thought for a second. “Well, I can pull the exciter coupling from the main manifold. Takes a minute to pull and a minute to put back on”.

Gerrin nodded “Do it”.

Lewis bounded up the cargo bay ladder. Meanwhile, Gerrin went to the intercom. “Doc, you there?”

Doc’s voice came back “I thought you were on your way to the hospital?”

“We were”, Gerrin answered, “but we ran into Park and Wilkins outside. They want to wait on the ship to see Loomie when she gets back. Any problems?”

“Works fine for me”, she answered.

“Okay, I’ll send ‘em up to you”. Gerrin released the switch and waited. Lewis came down the ladder a few seconds later with a medium-sized duffel bag in his hands. “That’s it?” Gerrin asked.

Lewis nodded. “Aldous showed me how to do it”.

“Good work. Now, let’s go”. Gerrin reached for the manual hatch release and opened the passenger door. Lewis tossed the bag over his shoulder as the two of them stepped out to join Anna at the truck, where she conversed with Park and Wilkins. “Okay”, Gerrin began, “Doc’s upstairs somewhere so just announce yourselves and go on up”.

“Thanks, captain”, Wilkins answered. “See you when you get back”.

“Right”, Gerrin climbed into the driver’s seat and started the truck as Park and Wilkins turned toward the passenger door of the cargo bay.

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

Aldous and Loomie continued to flee their would-be abductors through the makeshift town, both frantically looking for a place to hide. Suddenly, Loomie stopped short. “There”, she pointed, barely able to catch her breath. “What about that one?”

Aldous wiped the sweat from his brow and followed her gaze. The vessel she pointed toward was definitely unusual: a large cylindrical fuselage with swept-back atmo wings on either side that bent downward at the tips. The intakes for the secondary engines appeared fixed in the wings where they met the hull, with thrust diverters at the other end. Two small nodes on either side of the nose obviously contained directional thrusters. Twin tail fins rose from the rear of the craft. Aldous glanced quickly from nose to stern and back, locking briefly on the ship’s indentifier: Nordic Troll, scripted in both English and Chinese over a yellow circle within a blue circle. Aldous looked toward where the cargo bay should be: a small passenger door was open. He grabbed his sister by the arm and propelled her forward. “Go”.

They both darted through the man-sized door in the front of what had to be the cargo bay. Once inside they sidestepped out of the line of sight from outside and looked around cautiously. The large compartment appeared empty, other than several large crates stacked along the middle of the bay. Huddling beside the open door, they both peered out, their attention focused on the pedestrians outside. “See ‘em?” Aldous asked. Loomie replied “Nope. Maybe they gave up?”

“Doubt it”, Aldous murmured. They continued to peer out the open door until suddenly hands grabbed both of them from behind and whirled them around. They faced two men, guns drawn, staring them down. “What the hell you doing on my ship?” the red-haired man on the left demanded.

Loomie blurted “We got trouble – some guys chasing us”.

The red-haired man’s partner grunted “Trouble we got plenty of. Take yours elsewhere”.

“But they’re after us for slaves”, Loomie protested.

“At least let my sister stay”, Aldous begged. “They want her for more”.

The red-haired man snorted “Not my problem”.

“But-“ Loomie started.

“What’s going on here?”

They all turned as a third man emerged from behind the stacked crates, a brown-haired man who walked like a soldier. He looked a little dangerous. “Well?”

The red-haired man replied “Caught these two sneaking on the ship”.

The new man turned to the other man holding them. “Lang, I thought I told you to close that door”.

Lang protested “I’s just tryin’ to air the place out a little, cap’n. The last cargo didn’t smell so good”.

“Yeah, but you’re letting in more than just air, aren’t you?” The captain turned back to Aldous and Loomie. “You two, state your business. Make it quick”.

Aldous and Loomie looked at each other. “Now”, the captain commanded.

“We got four guys chasing us”, Aldous blurted. “I think they’re slavers, we just want to stay here for a few minutes and then we’ll be on our way, no problems”.

The captain stared at them. “I’m sorry for your problems, but I’ve got my own, and I don’t need any more”.

“They want us for SLAVES, or worse”. Looking from his sister to the captain, he pleaded “At least let my sister stay. I’ll go”.

“Kid, I got enough to deal with on my own –“ the captain hesitated for a second “-unless you know a mechanic who can get me off this rock”.

Aldous perked up. “I’m a mechanic. Most people say good. And Loomie here’s one of the best pilots in the sector. Flies like a leaf on the wind”.

The captain stared at him. “I pilot this ship-“

The red-haired man grumbled under his breath “If you can call it that”.

“Reilly”, the captain barked. “I got you here, didn’t I?” He turned back to Aldous, looking him over as if inspecting him. Finally he continued “Seeing as there’s a bit of hurry-up involved here, I’ll make you a deal: you get us in the air, you can stay”.

The man the captain called Reilly interrupted “You taking in strays, now?”

The captain turned to Reilly. “You’d rather stay here and drop the job?”

“What about Trask?” Lang asked.

Gesturing around the cargo bay, the captain inquired “You see him here? For the last two days?”

Reilly and Lang yielded at that as the captain turned to his “new” crewmembers. “Let’s see what you can do. Engine room is up the ladder and aft, cockpit the other way”.

Aldous and Loomie turned and headed for the ladder. Toward the top of the ladder they heard one of their attackers: “You people got something of ours”. They turned toward the door.

Lang and Reilly looked toward the captain. “Hard to say”, he shrugged. “Don’t know what it is you’re looking for”.

“Some of our property that got away. Not yours to bother with, so turn ‘em over”.

“The kid and his sister?” the captain mused. “I don’t think they’re keen on being property”.

“That ain’t for them to say”.

“Well, where’s your paperwork on this ‘property’?”

“Right here”. The two men pulled their guns and aimed them at the three men in the cargo bay. The captain, Lang and Reilly had their weapons out and pointed at the intruders just as fast. The opponents stood there, watching each other for a second before the captain spoke. “You really want to play it like this? Three to two? I wouldn’t”.

One of the men eyed him. “You really lookin’ to get drilled over a couple pieces of prairie trash? Give ‘em to us”.

“Not gonna happen. They’re on my boat, they’re my people. Not your trash”.

“We could just take ‘em”, the other one grinned.

The captain pulled back the hammer on his weapon. “You could just try”, he replied, mimicking the other’s tone.

Several tense seconds passed as both sides kept their weapons trained on each other. “Fine, for now”, the first man finally grunted. “But we’ll be back”.

“You just do that”, the captain answered, pistol still trained on its target, as both intruders backed out the passenger door, weapons still raised.

As the door closed, Reilly and Lang sagged visibly. “You want to tell me why we almost got shot for a couple of strays?” Reilly demanded.

The captain snorted “I say who gets on and off this ship and how, not some gun-toting backbirth ass-pirate”. Walking over to the intercom box, he pressed a button. “Hey”, he barked. “Stowaways”.

From the top of the cargo bay ladder he heard them both say “Yeah?”

The captain turned toward the ladder and spoke loudly. “We just took a lot of heat for you, and that on top of having some place else to be. Now, you say you can fly this ship, get us in the sky or you’re going back to your friends out there”.

Aldous and Loomie could tell he meant it. “We’ll be flying in five minutes”. Aldous called back.

“Make sure we are”. The captain turned toward his other crewmembers as the brother and sister headed up the ladder. “Did you see that?” Loomie whispered.

“Yeah”, Aldous kept his voice down. “This guy’s fairly upright. Let’s not let him down”.

“But nobody ever stood up for us like that before”.

“I know!” Aldous replied. “But this guy don’t play around, so let’s do right by him and maybe he’ll let us stay”.

Reaching the top of the ladder they stepped through the open hatch and looked up and down the passageway. “Engines are in the back, pilot’s up front, so you go that way”, Aldous pointed as he started aft.

Loomie made her way up the passageway, passing through what appeared to be the mess area. Traversing further up the corridor she came to a short ladder. She climbed the ladder into a small four-man cockpit. She looked around: the well-weathered chair on the right-front side didn’t match the rest of the cockpit, but the controls in front of it identified it as pilot’s seat. Taking her place in the chair she studied the controls for a few seconds: three main panels, most missing a few buttons and switches, but the essentials were there. Satisfied, she picked a handset from its bracket above the window on the right. Pushing the button she asked “Aldous, you there?”

A few seconds passed before Aldous’s voice sounded “Give me a minute, this place is a mess”.

Loomie waited for two minutes while Aldous did whatever he was doing. Finally he called back “Okay, I think I got this thing to where it will fly, but it’s still a mess down here”.

“You don’t have to re-build their engine room, you know”.

“Oh, yeah? Have you seen it down here?”

The captain’s voice interrupted “You both know you’re on shipwide, right?”

“Oh”. Aldous assured “We’re shiny, here. We’ll be skyborne in a minute”.

“Hurry up”.

Loomie sat in the cockpit and waited. A minute later she heard the hum of the ship’s engines starting. As the engines revved up Aldous’s voice came over the intercom. “Okay, Loomie, she’s all yours!”

Loomie took the intercom again and announced “Skyborne at your command, captain”.

“Let’s go”, his voice came back, slightly irritated.

Loomie took the controls and pulled back gently on the stick: the ship lifted gracefully into the air and pulled away from the town beneath them. Within minutes they had left the planet behind. Loomie smiled as she picked up the handset and announced “We have left atmo, captain. What course should I set?”



…………….To Be Concluded…



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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”.