BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MIKEBROOME

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #7: Strange Bedfellows (part 4).
Saturday, January 31, 2015

“I will rise soon”, the Purist continued. “My time here is done”. He paused before adding “I only regret that I won’t get to kill more of you myself”’. - - - “Why?” Hawkins demanded. “What did any of us do to you?” - - - The Purist smiled coldly at them. “God frowns on you”, he smirked hatefully. - - - “Wouldn’t be the first time”, Gerrin grunted.


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“Now, look”, Gerrin stood by the passenger door addressing the crew gathered around him. “I know you all don’t like me barking like a drill instructor, and I’ve been trying to tone it down lately, but now it’s different. I’ve got to keep trained soldiers in line, and that won’t happen if you all start questioning my decisions. So, for the time being, I tell you to do something, you do it. Maybe that way we can get through this alive”.

“But-“ Loomie started.

“No!” Gerrin cut her off. “No ‘buts’, no questions, no pissing and moaning. These guys don’t have a high opinion of civilians as is, except for maybe the sergeant, and on top of that, I can’t tell how much combat he’s ever seen. They see you pushing back, they’ll push back, and we’ll all wind up getting killed for not working together. So just do it. For now”.

“What about Reilly and Aldous?” Lewis asked.

“Reilly and Aldous’ll keep moving cargo. I’ll have to rotate them from the warehouse to the field so no one catches on what’s going on, but the drill’s the same but with one add-on: switch out the cargo, fend off these ‘Purist’ guys and get out of here alive”.

The crew looked at each other before nodding in agreement. “Okay”, Gerrin concluded, “Let’s get back to work”.

As the crew disbursed, Gerrin stopped Anna. “Anna”.

Anna turned toward him. “I need you and Lewis to take Park’s place with Aldous and Reilly, just for now”.

“For what?”

“Reilly and Aldous are switching out the cargos and they’ll need some help”.

“Not sure what I – or we – can do”.

Gerrin stared at her. “Right now I need every experienced soldier I’ve got out on the field. And I need for these Alliance types to see some changing faces to make it look like we’re working all over the place”.

Anna looked toward the building, then back at Gerrin. “All right”, she conceded, “tell him we’re on our way”.

“Wait”. Picking up the comlink Gerrin called “Reilly”.

“Right here”, Reilly sounded over the link.

“Anna and Lewis are going to replace Park for now. They’re on their way back to you”.

Reilly hesitated before responding “Any particular reason?”

“I just want these regulars to have eyes on most of us from time to time”.

“All right. Give us a few minutes and Park’ll be out there with the loader”.

“Right. They’ll be waiting”. Gerrin switched off the comlink. Turning to Anna, he said “Park’ll be out with the loader in a few minutes. Just try to stay busy ‘till he gets here. And if someone starts shooting, get down”.

“Of course”, Anna nodded.

Reilly grunted in annoyance as he switched off the commlink. “What’s up?” Aldous asked as he and Park continued to investigate the interiors of the many boxes occupying the floor of the large dusty warehouse.

Reilly huffed “We need to send Park out there and bring Anna and Lewis back here”.

“Why?”

“Nick wants the purple-bellies to see most of our people out there so it looks like we’re not hiding anything”.

Park looked at Reilly. “He wants the what to see us?” he asked tersely.

“No offense”, Reilly countered.

“Yeah”, Aldous continued, “we do have three used-to-be’s, remember?”

“Watch it”, Reilly commented, shifting his eyes toward Park.

“How do you figure three?” Park asked.

Aldous started to answer, thought better of it, and changed the subject. “So how are we gonna hide what we’re not hiding?” he continued.

The three of them looked around the open warehouse. Large wooden crates lined one side, while several large blue drums, displaying the hazardous material markings for fuel, occupied one corner of the other.

Reilly walked up to the drums. Grasping one by either side of the top, he gave it a shake. It wobbled back and forth with no resistance. He let go and stood up. Reaching for another, he repeated the gesture with the same result. He stood there, staring at the drums for several seconds before musing aloud “I think we need fuel”.

“Huh?” Aldous looked at him. “No we don’t”.

“Yes we do”, Reilly asserted. “In fact, we barely made it here on what we had”.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Guys”, Park broke in, “what’s going on here?”

Reilly rolled his eyes at both of them. “We have empty fuel barrels here that can hold the cargo. We use them to get it on the boat”.

Aldous stood quietly mulling over Reilly’s idea. “Yes”, he finally decided. “We do need fuel”.

“Finally”, Reilly grunted to himself. Raising his voice he said “Load the stuff in the drums and we’ll put it on the loader. Park, you’ll take the loader back to the ship and switch with Anna She’ll come in here, you’ll work out there”.

“Okay”, Park agreed, “let’s get to it”, as they reached for the first drum and began working the top open.

The Alliance soldiers and the crew of the Troll spent the next two hours preparing foxholes along the edge of the field. Most of the wounded Alliance soldiers were still able to fight, but digging was another question, so Gerrin and the Alliance sergeant, whom he had discovered was named Durant, enlisted the help of several civilians to do the actual digging, with the soldiers giving instructions. The Troll’s crew continued to transfer their intended cargo to the ship while shifting personnel between the field and the warehouse, the Alliance soldiers unaware that anything unusual was going on.

Gerrin continued consulting with Durant while Anna and Lewis, and later Wilkins, shifted to the warehouse to help Reilly and Aldous with the cargo transfer. The process continued in the warehouse without incident. But on the field, a problem arose when one of the soldiers, most of whom were not enthused about being there, or working with civilians, became vocal about it while Doc and Park made the rounds passing out water. As Doc approached one foxhole, she noticed an Alliance private leaning on a shovel while two sweaty civilians from the town labored over the hole. As she handed the three of them bottles, the private snatched his away. “That thirsty, are we?” Doc commented.

“Waste of time even bein’ here”, the private grumped.

“Well, you are here, so get some work done”, Doc countered disapprovingly.

“Ain’t my problem”, the private shot back. “They chose to live here, let them handle it”.

Doc turned away. “We’ll talk about your toilet training later”, she retorted.

The private watched her go. “Biaozi (whore)”, he grumbled.

Park caught it. “Is there a problem, here?” he asked levelly.

The private glared toward the town. “Y’all need to start seein’ to your own messes, ‘stead of comin’ to us to clean ‘em up”.

“These are the people you signed up to serve” Park said stonily.

The private leered at Doc’s retreating back. “Yeah, well maybe she can serve me later”.

Park grew angry. “You need to see to your mouth, private”.

The private stood up. He was a good three inches taller than Park. “What’re you gonna do, boy?”

“Is there a problem here?”

Both men turned as Gerrin approached. “Speak up”, he commanded sternly.

“No…’sir’”, the private announced coldly, “You need to see to your dog here, that’s all”.

Park started forward angrily. Gerrin blocked him with one arm and said “Go on back to work. I’ll handle this”.

Park’s eyes shifted from the private to Gerrin. After a second, he relented “Yes, sir”, and turned to follow Doc.

Gerrin turned toward the private. “You’re gonna wannna secure that attitude right now, private”, he commanded coldly.

“Sorry, ‘sir’”, the private started with malicious sarcasm, “I just got a problem with putting my ass out there for a bunch of chicken scratch who ain’t got the stones to do their own dirty-work”.

Gerrin’s tone remained ice-cold. “You want to be more specific about that ‘dirty work’ you have to do?”

The private stared at him with utter contempt. “We go out ev’ry time someone starts shootin’, and wher’re y’all? Gos-se hits the fan and we got to go clean it up, and wher’re y’all? You’re all hidin’ in your homes and on your ships, eatin’ your dinner and runnin’ your contraband, and we’re your buddies while we’re takin’ bullets for you. Then when things settle down, we’re like somethin’ you scrape off your shoe. You think you could do our job? Hell, I’d be surprised if there’s a handful o’ guts in the bunch of ya”.

Gerrin’s stare was equally cold. “These people had to deal with your little friends out there while y’all were back at the barracks bitchin’ about your chow. As for my ‘chicken scratch’, they’ve faced down Reavers, boy. Reavers. The real thing. You ever faced down Reavers? No? Come talk to me when you have. In the meantime, we got Reaver groupies heading our way, so you might want to get you some cover set up”.

The private glared at Gerrin. “That’s not a suggestion”, Gerrin finished.

The two men stood facing each other for several seconds, staring each other down, until Durant yelled “Dalbec! Get on with your work or you’ll find yourself on report!”

The private, Dalbec, shot a dirty look at his sergeant and slowly picked up the shovel he’d dropped and turned toward the half-finished trench.

Gerrin turned toward the Troll to see Lewis driving the loader up the cargo bay ramp, followed by Doc and Park on foot. Curious, he jogged over to the door. Peering around the side of the ship into the cargo bay he saw Park and Doc reaching for a large blue drum in the back of the loader’s cargo bed. “What’s that?” he called out.

Lewis looked toward him. “I just drive”, he shrugged.

Park answered, somewhat dubiously, “Reilly said we needed ‘fuel’”.

“’Fuel?’”

“Yes, sir”, Park continued, “’fuel’”.

Gerrin caught on. “Okay, get it in here”. Reaching for his comlink, Gerrin called “Reilly”.

Reilly responded, sounding slightly annoyed “Right here”.

“That ‘fuel’ we’re onloading, is that the ‘fuel’ we came for?”

“That it is, captain”.

“All right”, Gerrin concluded, “but only what’s ours, got it?”

“Of course, captain”.

Gerrin pulled back to look at the comlink in his hand. “You getting sore about us not running?” he asked quietly but sternly.

“Hardly”, Reilly answered placidly. “I know it’s not in your nature to just walk away. You’re a fixer”.

“A what?”

“A fixer. You see something wrong and you have to try and put it right”.

“And what about you?”

Gerrin could see Reilly shrug in his mind. “Must be catching”.

“Right”, Gerrin smirked.

“Just get us out of here in one piece”, Reilly continued. “Or…the same number of pieces we came in. Plus the cargo. There’s limits to my benevolence”. The link went silent.

Gerrin smiled as he turned toward the cargo bay door. He was halfway down the ramp when he heard someone shout “Contact! Bearing one-nine-seven, relative! The dip between the mushroom boulders!”

Gerrin dashed down the ramp and around the side of the ship looking toward the valley for the cause of the warning. Squinting in the direction the unseen voice indicated, he saw nothing at first. Then a glint of light caught his attention, followed by distant *Ptt!*. Gerrin crouched as another *Ptt!*, followed by another, rolled in from the valley. “INCOMING!” Gerrin roared as he hit the ground.

Three explosions, one after the other, hit the field. Gunfire followed. Gerrin looked quickly around him: Doc and the Alliance medic were in the triage area, draped over two of the wounded. The ship’s loader was charging up the Troll’s cargo ramp with Lewis driving. Park and Wilkins had dived into the newly-dug foxhole nearest him, returning fire. On two of the town’s buildings, the machine guns and their crews were firing at a sporadic rate. Gerrin looked into the valley: several flashes of light blinked from the position mentioned by the sentry who spotted the initial flashes. “Grenade Launchers!” he shouted.

“Launcher, Aye!” one of the soldiers in the second nearest foxhole announced.

“You got the range?”

“Range, aye, I can just get ‘em!”

“Sight on target and open fire! Everyone else, cover him!” Gerrin shouted at the top of his lungs.

The rest of the makeshift squad continued firing as the man with the grenade launcher sighted in on his target. Pointing the launcher toward the target and slowly raising it halfway into the air, he squeezed the trigger with a lout “Putt!”, and the grenade went flying toward its target. Four more “Putt!” s followed the first, and the cracking flashes from the spot in the valley ceased. Gerrin watched for several seconds before shouting “Cease fire!”

Thirty seconds passed with silence. Gerrin looked up. “Everyone all right?” he shouted.

Durant stood up. “Get a head count and get set up for another attack”, he ordered.

“They’re not gone, yet”. Gerrin looked around. “You got someone who can go with me out there?”

Durant looked around. “Hawkins!” He barked.

A corporal stepped forward. “Yeah, Sarge?

“Go with him”, Durant ordered.

“Let’s go”. The two of them started down the bank into the canyon, weapons raised.

A minute later they reached the bottom as Hawkins asked “Think we got anything?”

Gerrin replied “If we did, they’ll still be behind those rocks. If not, we keep looking”.

“Where?”

“Just watch for movement. They’re travelling light, so they won’t stick out much. Any sign of movement or flash of light, that’ll be them”.

Hawkins glanced toward Gerrin. “You’ve done this before?”

“A time or two”, Gerrin allowed.

As they breached the gap in the boulders, they stopped. Behind the small hill, just out of sight to observers on the field, a body, motionless, lay in a shallow ravine beside three short tubes, roughly one meter long, obviously improvised mortar shell launchers. The motionless man was dressed in the same all-black “uniform” as the one Gerrin had observed on the fallen man on the field after the first attack: covered head, improvised leathery flak vest, numerous ammunition clips hanging from the belt, and one excessively large combat knife. Gerrin and Hawkins stepped down into the ravine, stopping to bend over the fallen man.

Hawkins reached down to the fallen Purist and felt for a pulse. “This one’s still alive”, he observed.

“Yeah, well, his friends are still out there”, Gerrin reminded him, standing to scan the horizon. “Scan the area. Look for anything out of place”.

“You won’t find ‘em”.

Gerrin and Hawkins turned toward the downed man. “They have returned to the wind”, he continued malevolently.

“Didn’t think much of you to leave you behind, did they?” Gerrin mused.

“I will rise soon”, the Purist continued in a raspy voice. “My time here is done”. He paused before adding “I only regret that I won’t get to kill more of you myself”’.

“Why?” Hawkins demanded. “What did any of us do to you?”

The Purist smiled coldly at them. “God frowns on you”, he smirked hatefully.

“Wouldn’t be the first time”, Gerrin grunted.

“You’re unclean” the Purist continued weakly but defiantly, “and the servants of the all-highest are gonna wash you away in a river of your own blood”.

“Yeah, well, you can dream about that all you want from a cell”.

“I won’t see any cell”, the Purist rasped as he reached inside his pants and pulled out a small pistol. Gerrin and Hawkins jumped toward him, but before they could reach him, he put the pistol into his mouth and pulled the trigger. A loud pop proceeded a spray of blood on the ground beneath the Purist’s head. The Purist fell back to the ground, dead.

Gerrin and Hawkins stood over the Purist’s body, momentarily stunned. “What does that all mean?” Hawkins asked.

“It means they’re coming for us again, and soon”. Gerrin stood up and started for the field. “Get ready for another attack”.

.

……….To Be Continued…

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Whump! - - -
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