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Tales From the Nordic Troll - #7: Strange Bedfellows (part 2).
Thursday, December 11, 2014

Gerrin jogged over to the Alliance skiff. “What’s the status?” he asked the sergeant. - - - - - “Three dead, five wounded”, the sergeant responded. After a pause he added “Including the captain”. - - - - - “Dead?” - - - - - The sergeant nodded. “Yeah”. - - - - - “Konyetchna (of course)”, Gerrin muttered, mostly to himself. “Nothing ever goes according to plan”.


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Smoke drifted through the air as the passenger door opened and Gerrin, Park, Wilkins, Reilly and Aldous stepped quickly from the Troll’s cargo bay, weapons at the ready, and spread out, scanning the packed-dirt landing area marked with small craters and bodies, otherwise empty except for the Troll and a few scattered crates and drums. Doc emerged behind them with a med kit, looked around, and moved toward the nearest body. Kneeling over the man, Doc examined him rapidly while Gerrin and Aldous stood watch close by. “This one’s alive, but barely”, she called out to Gerrin. “Multiple gunshot wounds, couple of knife cuts, shrapnel. He needs a hospital, like an hour ago”.

“Ain’t got one”, the man groaned. “Nearest one’s forty miles from here”.

Gerrin moved cautiously up beside them. “Who did this?” he asked.

The man saw the rifle in Gerrin’s hands and struggled to move away. “Relax”, Gerrin assured him, “we’re friendlies”.

The man relaxed slightly as he continued “They came over that ridge. Seemed like a hundred of ‘em, shootin’ at everything in sight”.

Gerrin glanced across the field to the small valley beyond, focusing on the ridge on the far side. “Who were they?”

“Don’t know”. The man confessed in broken sentences. “They come, they shoot, they go. That’s about it. Three times they’ve hit us”.

“That still doesn’t tell me ‘who’”.

“Can’t - didn’t -“ Suddenly the man started gasping violently. “Hey! Hey!”, Gerrin commanded, “You hang on, now! We’re gonna get you fixed up. What’s your name, mister?”

The man’s spasms relaxed for a moment. “Wood”, he rasped.

“Alright, Wood”, Gerrin continued, leaning directly into the man’s line of sight, “I want you to focus on me, and Doc here’s gonna get you stable enough to move, okay?”

Wood’s breathing became labored. “Wood, don’t you slip on me!”

Woods body tensed, then slowly went limp. Doc bent over to feel for a pulse. After a few seconds she looked at Gerrin and shook her head.

Gerrin let out a frustrated hiss. “All right”, he stood up and activated the two-way radio. “Loomie, get everyone out here except you and Lewis, let’s help these people best we can, and if we have to, we put in a call to the nearest Alliance outpost”.

“I can help”, Loomie objected.

“You’re not even supposed to be up and about, yet. Stay with the ship”.

“But-“

“Loomie”, Gerrin commanded sharply, “Stay with the ship. That’s an order”. Gerrin heard a grunt of exasperation from Loomie as he turned off the comlink. “Reilly!” he shouted.

Reilly jogged across the field to their position. ”What’s up?”

“We have a problem”, Gerrin answered, scanning the area. “Someone hit this place, don’t know who”.

Reilly tensed. “Reavers, maybe?”

“No”, Gerrin answered slowly. “Reavers would’ve made a meal of these people. Something else is at play, here”.

“So – what? The job’s off?”

Gerrin thought for several seconds. Finally he hissed through clenched teeth. “We’re down to a food pack a day for sustenance, let’s get this done and get paid. We’re in a docking area, so the cargo’s likely here somewhere. Look around for the dockmasters office and see if you can find a manifest or something”.

“Where’s the dockmaster’s office?”

Gerrin looked around and gestured toward a long building with a raised tower: smoke drifted from the windows on one side, but the other side seemed untouched. “Look around. It’s gotta be in there somewhere”.

“Oh, that helps a lot”, Reilly grumbled.

“And take Park and Aldous with you”.

Reilly paused, turning toward Gerrin. “You know he’s having reservations about this?”

“Aldous?”

“Park”.

Gerrin shrugged. “Can’t help it. We’re here, and we need this job. Just get the truck, get the loader, and get it done fast. We may have to call for Alliance help, here”.

Reilly let out a clipped laugh. “Have you forgotten who you’re talking to? Just give us a few minutes before you make the call”.

“I’ll give you fifteen, then Loomie calls. It’ll take them maybe twenty minutes after that to show up, so get moving”.

“On it”. Reilly put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. Once he had Aldous and Park’s attention, he waved them toward the passenger door.

Gerrin waited several seconds before keying the comlink. “Loomie?”

“Right here”, she chirped.

“Send ‘em out, give Reilly fifteen minutes, then call for help”.

“Aye”.

The cargo bay door hummed as it slowly opened and lowered toward the ground. Gerrin watched as the ramp touched ground and the small truck and the loader, driven by Reilly and Aldous, rattled down the ramp with loaded cargo beds and rolled toward the side of the large tower building. Gerrin watched the two vehicles disappear behind the building and went back to work aiding the wounded. Doc examined each of the fallen, while Gerrin and Anna carried stretchers to the triage area Doc had picked out in front of one of the smaller buildings. Wilkins stood beside Doc, weapon at the ready.

Forty minutes passed before an Alliance skiff landed on the open side of the field across from the Troll in answer to Loomie’s call for help. As it landed doors on either side of the small ship opened and twelve men dressed in full combat gear piled out one by one, six on each side, weapons ready. Gerrin and Doc watched as they formed up into a “V” formation in front of the skiff and started across the field. A dozen to deal with a hundred, Gerrin thought to himself. Yeah, this’ll go well. Raising the comlink he called “Reilly”.

“What’s up?”

“The cavalry’s here. Stay where you are for now, don’t do anything that draws attention”.

“I’m not going anywhere”, Reilly answered, shutting off the link.

Peering out a window in the main building, Reilly and Aldous had watched the skiff land as the Troll’s cargo ramp closed. “Yeah, this is turning out really good”, Aldous commented sourly.

“Don’t look at me”, Reilly remarked, “I wanted to wait until we switched cargos”.

Aldous sighed. “What do you want to do?”

Reilly returned his gaze to the window. “Well, they don’t seem too interested in us for now”, he mused. “Let’s check the other bays, that cargo’s gotta be here somewhere”.

“Right”, Aldous concluded as they moved away from the window.

As the squad approached, Gerrin identified the man in charge, a young-looking officer who walked in the middle of the formation. Gerrin raised his hand.

The squad stopped directly in front of them. “Spread out and secure the area”, the man in the center of the formation, looking unusually prim and proper in his pristine combat gear, commanded. As the rest of the formation spread out the squad leader asked “Are you the people who sent the distress call?”

“That was us”, Gerrin answered. “Glad you could come”.

The prim-looking officer stated “I’m the officer in charge here, Captain Sanderson”. Gerrin made note of the way he stressed “captain”. “And you are…?”

Gerrin answered flatly “Nick Gerrin, captain of the Nordic Troll, bringing in cargo for a client when this happened”.

Sanderson continued condescendingly “Well, captain, you can stand your people down, we’ll take it from here”. Looking over his shoulder he called “Sergeant”.

Gerrin looked at him. “What is ‘it’ that you’re taking, exactly?”

“That needn’t concern you. This is just a minor insurrection by local malcontents”.

“’Local malcontents’?” Gerrin’s eyebrows raised. “Local malcontents don’t raise this kind of hell”.

“Rabble-rousing anarchists with no respect for law and order tend to do whatever they want, captain…”

“Gerrin”, Gerrin repeated. After a second, he added “Do these ‘rabble-rousers’ have a name or something?”

“That’s hardly important”, Sanderson dismissed the question.

The sergeant who joined Sanderson broke in “They call themselves the ‘Swords of God.’”

Gerrin, Doc and Sanderson turned to look at the sergeant, Sanderson with a bit of irritation. “That’s sounds kind of colorful”, Doc remarked.

“Religious fanatics”, the sergeant continued. “They think that the human race is too corrupt to survive and the Reavers are God’s punishment for living an impure life. They want to ‘help return the ‘Verse to more righteous ways’”.

Gerrin waved his hand toward the smoldering town. “Like this?”

“They attack a town, conquer it, and then kill any of the townsfolk who they think aren’t worthy or who don’t convert”, the sergeant shrugged grimly.

Gerrin shifted his attention back to Sanderson. “Sounds like more than local malcontents to me”, he assessed.

“Perhaps”, Sanderson allowed, “but I have trained soldiers who are more than adequate to deal with a small band of homicidal sociopaths”.

Gerrin was becoming mildly annoyed. “In my experience a fanatic who thinks he’s in good with God is more dangerous than any trained soldier. And from what I hear, there’s about a hundred of ‘em”.

“While I appreciate your concern, captain…”

“Gerrin”, Gerrin and Doc repeated in unison, barely masking their annoyance.

“Yes, of course”, Sanderson continued. “This is hardly any of your affair, captain. Stand your people down. We are perfectly capable of handling this”.

Gerrin stared at him. “Dahng ran (Of course). You just keep telling yourself that”, he finally concluded as he and Doc turned to leave. As they walked away Doc commented mockingly “Confident, ain’t he?”

Gerrin snorted “Obviously being too smart for his own good isn’t one of his problems”.

“So, what now?”

“We go back and try to help the wounded if we can, and if we can get these guys out of here quick we can go back to moving cargo”.

“Oh, yeah, that should be easy”, Doc grumbled.

“Just do what you can, Doc”.

“I always do”, Doc sighed.

Doc continued her work as the Troll’s crew spent the next half hour trying to help the wounded as best they could. The Alliance medic worked with two of his squadmates to treat the wounded, sometimes treating a downed civilian already treated by Doc. Both sides worked around each other until Doc approached Gerrin as he was setting a stretcher with a wounded woman down in the improvised triage area. “Cap’n?”

Gerrin looked up.

“That Alliance witch-doctor they brought wants us to get out of the way”, Doc growled.

Gerrin looked toward the man. “Does he, now?”

“Yep”, Doc nodded angrily.

“Okay”, Gerrin fumed, turning toward the skiff. “Let’s go have another talk with his boss”.

They both started across the field. They had taken six steps when an explosion shattered the relative quiet of the landing field. Gerrin and Doc instinctively ducked as shots followed the explosion, exploding in the dirt around them. Both quickly drew their weapons, scanning the area for the source of the incoming fire. Their eyes locked on the far ridge as a wave of dark shadows appeared over the ridge. Gerrin looked frantically around to see Wilkins taking cover behind several large crates. Anna had taken cover behind the edge of the cargo bay, firing around the corner. Gerrin’s eyes shifted to the attacking horde: some continued to fire from the ridge, while the rest, some on foot and some on horses, advanced on the town through the shallow valley as sporadic explosions continued to rock the field and nearby buildings.

Gerrin heard the Troll’s engines start up as another explosion demolished a pile of drums halfway across the field. He stood, yanking Doc to her feet, and raced for the passenger door. Anna was already inside the door, weapon raised, yelling “Come on!”

Gerrin and Doc ran crouched toward the door, firing toward the ridge as they went. Anna jumped to the side as they scampered aboard. “What the hell are you doing?!?” Gerrin roared.

“Loomie’s gonna lift off and make a low pass with the thrusters down and scatter ‘em”, Anna shouted.

Gerrin’s gaze whipped from Anna to the field outside the door back to Anna. “DaVAI (Have at it)!” he finally shouted as he waved Wilkins toward the door. Grabbing at his comlink he yelled “Reilly, stay put! We’ll be right back!”

In the cockpit Loomie grabbed for the handset and shouted “Hang on everybody!”. She jerked back on the stick and the Troll leapt into the air as Gerrin yanked the passenger door closed. Loomie climbed to fifty feet in a half-turn and moved forward over the valley, her thrust diverters still tilted downward. The blast from the engines knocked the footborne attackers down while those on horses had to hang on as the horses bolted in fright. Those few who were able to maintain their footing fired on the ship with little effect. The small arms rounds merely bounced off the reinforced lower hull. Loomie continued to circle over the field for several minutes until the last of the attackers turned back and retreated over the ridge. Satisfied, she gently returned the Troll to its original resting place on the field.

Gerrin, Doc and Wilkins didn’t wait for the engines to shut down before yanking open the passenger door and charging out onto the field, weapons ready. Gerrin scanned the edges of the field, noting several downed Alliance soldiers mixed with some of their attackers. Gerrin stopped beside the body of one: it was clad in black, head covered, with what looked like an improvised flak vest made of some sort of leathery material. An inordinate number of ammunition clips hung from the belt, as well as an unusually large combat knife. Blood oozed from a bullet wound in the man’s neck.

Gerrin turned his attention from the body to the area around him. Several of the Alliance soldiers were being carried by their comrades toward the skiff – some alive, some dead. Gerrin looked around for the officer in charge: he was nowhere to be seen. Gerrin approached the nearest upright Alliance soldier. “Where’s your captain?” he asked.

“Captain’s down”, the man answered curtly. “Sarge is by the skiff”. He pointed toward two men standing by the skiff.

Gerrin jogged over to the Alliance skiff. “What’s the status?” he asked the sergeant.

“Three dead, five wounded”, the sergeant responded. After a pause he added “Including the captain”.

“Dead?”

The sergeant nodded. “Yeah”.

Konyetchna (of course)”, Gerrin muttered, mostly to himself. “Nothing ever goes according to plan”.

-

……….To Be Continued.

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


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