Tales From the Nordic Troll - #7: Strange Bedfellows (part 6)
Sunday, May 17, 2015

Staring out the open bay, Durant mused “It does make you wonder, though, why some people want to dominate or destroy everything they see”. . . . Gerrin’s answer was grim. “Some people just can’t feel good about themselves until they feel bad about someone else”


The sun was sinking toward the hills on the horizon as the crew of the Nordic Troll and the remaining Alliance soldiers who could still walk finished packing their equipment. Several hours had passed as they tended to their wounded and dug the townspeople out of the collapsed buildings on the edge of the field.

Aldous’s plan had worked: when Loomie flew over the valley and engaged the main engines the blowback had thrown the attacking Purists over fifty meters along the valley, igniting anything flammable. The defenders in the trenches had been shielded by the raised earthworks in front of the trenches, but several buildings along the perimeter, already damaged by subsequent attacks, had been blown over like anthills kicked by a giant invisible foot. Several buildings further into town had also been damaged, but were still structurally sound.

The allied side had suffered only one casualty: Private Dalbec, who had failed to duck behind the earthworks when the Troll’s main engines engaged. His upper half had been instantly scorched and blown away as the blowback hit him. All that remained was a cauterized torso above a pair of utility trousers, fused together at the cauterization. Oddly none of his squad mates seemed too shaken up about the loss.

More than a dozen townspeople had joined in the cleanup and recovery effort, the same few who had volunteered to help set up defenses. They now moved with members of the Troll’s crew picking up debris and helping the wounded while the Alliance soldiers who could still walk packed up their gear and their wounded and moved them to the skiff.

Gerrin, Wilkins and two of the townspeople worked to pull pieces of support beams and fragments of ceiling from the double wooden doored hatchway leading to the shelter where Doc and the Alliance medic had moved their patients before the firefight began. As they worked to pull the last of the rubble from the hatch, Wilkins mused “Think they’re okay down there?”

“Well, this shelter looks like it was designed for some pretty heavy weather, so they should be fine”, Gerrin concluded.

Tossing the last fragment of beam to the floor alongside the hatch, Gerrin reached down and ponded three times on one of the heavy doors. After a second three dull thuds answered his hail. Gerrin stood up and waited with the other three as they heard the heavy sound of a bolt being pulled back and one of the doors swung slowly upward. Gerrin and Watkins reached down and caught the door, swinging it into a fully open position. Peering into the shelter they saw Doc at the bottom of the stairs, a lantern in hand. “’Bout time you guys got here”, she quipped as they started down the stairs while the two civilians swung the second door open.

“Thought you might need some help”, Gerrin replied as he reached the bottom of the stairs.

Doc waved a portable lantern over the stretchers. “Just grab one end so I can get these guys out of here”.

“What about my people?” the Alliance medic asked tersely.

“Go on”, Gerrin jerked his head toward the hatch. “You’re needed out there”.

The medic practically jumped toward the hatch. “Rookie”, Doc snorted as he disappeared through the horizontal double doors.

Gerrin, Watkins and the two civilians lifted the two stretchers and carried them gingerly up the stairs as Doc followed. They started toward the triage area where Doc and the medic had been treating the wounded earlier. They had barely reached the area when Sergeant Durant called “Captain Gerrin, a moment”.

Gerrin and Doc looked at each other. Doc stepped forward and took the end of the stretcher from Gerrin. “Good luck”, she said in a low voice.

Gerrin started across the field, joining Durant in the middle. “What’s up?”

Durant looked around before starting “Several of the townspeople are already asking who’s going to fix all this. Some of them are looking toward you and us”.

Gerrin gestured toward his ship. “That’s what I have to work with. How’s that going to fix a town?”

Durant continued “Some of them feel that since your lighting off your engine in atmo is what destroyed the tower and the warehouse buildings, you should be held responsible for it”.

Gerrin snorted “Lighting off that engines is all that saved us…or maybe they’d like the town-killers back?”

Durant replied defensively “I’m only advising you that some people are talking, and that it might behoove you to pack up and leave quietly”.

Gerrin nodded. “That’s the plan”. Looking toward the town, he added “maybe their rep in Parliament – if they have one - can do something for them. Earn his pay, for a change”.

“I can’t really speak to that”, Durant opined sourly. Drawing a breath, he continued “There is one other thing, though…” He paused. “I’m reluctant to bring it up, considering all the help you gave us…”

Here it comes, Gerrin thought to himself.

“This field handles a lot of illicit traffic, so I’ll have to see your manifests for the cargo you unloaded”.

“Well”, Gerrin sighed, “it was all in the traffic control building when it got blown over. I really didn’t know what it was, I was paid not to ask, so I just moved it and kept my mouth shut”.

“What about the cargo you were supposed to pick up?”

“We were just getting fuel for the secondary engines. We’re picking up our next run on Daedalus and we’re short on fuel”.

Durant stared at him for several seconds. “I don’t like having to do this”, he confessed, “but I’ll have to inspect those barrels”.

Gerrin gestured resignedly toward his ship. “They’re still in the cargo bay”, he said, hoping that the crew had emptied the contents.

Durant turned and walked slowly toward the Troll, climbing the ramp to the cargo bay a minute later. Making his way alongside the strapped-down truck and loader he stepped up to one of the large blue barrels, inscribed with the logo of the Blue Sun Corporation’s fuel distribution branch, and pried off the plug on the top. Reaching for a flashlight, he peered inside the barrel: a thin gold-green film, still wet, coated the bottom of the barrel. Durant took a sniff: the cloying smell of fuel invaded his nostrils. Satisfied, he switched off the flashlight and re-attached the plug. Moving to another barrel, he repeated the exercise, with the same results. Replacing the second plug, Durant remarked. “Very good. Now, I need to look around your ship to make sure you haven’t stowed anything on board you’re not supposed to have”.

Good job, guys, Gerrin thought to himself. Aloud he remarked “That’s an awful lot of trouble for a few barrels of fuel”.

“Just standing orders, it won’t take long”, Durant replied, turning toward the ladder to the crew deck.

Durant did a quick tour of the crew deck, checking in the galley and mess deck. Moving through the crew’s quarters, he opened the door on a half-naked Anna with her back toward him, who covered herself and turned sharply toward him. “Do you mind?” she demanded harshly as an embarrassed Durant quickly shut the door. Trying to recover, he proceeded to the lounge and the engine room, stopping briefly to peer under the occasional table or chair, before returning to the cargo bay. “I apologize for that, but I do have orders to randomly inspect incoming ships”.

“I understand”, Gerin nodded, noting to himself how Durant had only done a quick sweep over the ship’s spaces.

“I do need to look at the cargo you offloaded, though”.

Gerrin looked toward the open ramp. “It’s in the tower building…what’s left of it”.

Durant sighed. “I’ll go take a look”. Turning to Gerrin, he added “Once you get clearance, go ahead and depart. Quietly. I’ll don’t have to file a report for another hour”.

“Got it”, Gerrin nodded.

Staring out the open bay, Durant mused “It does make you wonder, though, why some people want to dominate or destroy everything they see”.

Gerrin’s answer was grim. “Some people just can’t feel good about themselves until they feel bad about someone else”

“Yeah”, Durant whispered. Turning to Gerrin, he extended his hand. “Thank you for all your help”.

Gerrin took his hand “we’re shiny”, he replied.

Durant’s release order came half an hour later. The Troll lifted off the pad quickly and without fanfare and departed. Shortly after leaving atmo, the crew started moving cargo from the cabinets in the galley, underneath bunks in the berthings, and the other out-of-the-way hiding spaces to the cargo bay along with the goods from the uninspected fuel barrels.

While the rest of the crew worked, Gerrin sat at the table on the mess deck with Park and Wilkins, recounting the story of Lotus Ridge and all that came after. Both sat and listened, their faces ashen. As Gerrin finished, he waited for one of them to say something. Wilkins responded by murmuring "Wuh de tyen, ah (Dear god in heaven)". She looked squarely at Gerrin. “And that’s all real?”

Gerrin returned her stare. “Reilly was with me in prison, if you want to talk to him about it”.

“He already let some of it slip”, Park murmured. “Everyone did”. He sat silently for several second before admitting “I don’t think I can do this”.

Wilkins turned toward her former travelling companion. “Where you gonna go?” she asked flatly.

“I don’t know, but this…” he turned toward her. “Do you believe it?”

“Don’t know”, she confessed. After a pause she concluded “But he’s done right by us so far, and the rest of ‘em trust him. Hell, he fessed up, didn’t he?”

Park paused thoughtfully. “Yeah, but…” he sighed.

Gerrin gave him a second before stating “If you want off, now’s the time to say so. We can find a decent backwater moon for you to try your luck on. Nothing too close to the Alliance, though. But someplace you might be able to make a living. Think about it”. He stared at Park as he added “But I’m gonna need an answer soon”.

Park sat for several seconds before letting out an exasperated hiss. “Cao wuo (F**k me)…I really know how to pick ‘em, don’t I?” To Gerrin, he added in an embarrassed voice “Just tell me we’re not breaking the law too seriously, are we?”

Gerrrin shrugged “We do what it takes to keep flying. Sometimes we smuggle, sometimes we steal, but when we steal, it’s from bad people”.

“What happens when they’re not?”

“I don’t think there’s much to worry about there”. Gerrin replied. “There’ll always be plenty of scum in the ‘Verse in need of being ripped off”.

“I’m willing to stick”, Wilkins added. “For now”. Turning to Park, she asked “How ‘bout it?”

Park looked at the two of them. “Cao”, he hissed again. “I’ve already been seen with you anyway…I’m in”.

Gerrin nodded. “Good enough”. The three of them rose as Gerrin added “we’ll see how it goes”.

Park and Wilkins withdrew toward their quarters as Reilly, who had been listening from just beyond the doorway, stepped in. “Well, that went well”, he remarked, staring after them. Turning to Gerrin he continued in a lowered voice “We need to go ahead and get this little to-do wrapped up”, Reilly tells him. “Our luck’s running kind of thin and we don’t need to jinx it”.

“I have to agree”, Gerrin conceded. “Our situation’s gotten a bit unpredictable, lately”.

“Ya think?” Reilly looked at Gerrin squarely as he summed it up: “Let’s look at our recent track record: a passenger run which almost got brought down by a bunch of upright donkeys and a self-important prostitute, a trip home – yours - which resulted in dumping the job and having your pilot get shot, not to mention you and everybody else on here is now probably tagged, and now this. You can’t say that our luck’s not been running thin, lately”.

“I’m agreeing with you, ain’t I?” Gerrin rebutted irritably. “Let’s wrap it up. Go ahead and contact your friends”.

“Already put out the message”, Reilly informed him.

Several hours later Gerrin sat in cockpit manning the pilot’s chair as Loomie entered the cockpit. “Ready to knock off?” she asked.

Gerrin rubbed his eyes slowly. Yeah”, he confessed. “I think that coffee of yours is starting to wear off”.

“That’s okay, I got it”. Loomie waited as Gerrin lifted himself out of the pilot’s seat and shifted over to the copilot’s chair. “You going to sack out?” she asked.

“In a few”. Gerrin arched his back. “Rough day, huh?”

“Yeah, well, we wouldn’t have made it through it without you”, she beamed at her captain. “You brought us through it in one piece again”.

Gerrin let out a yawn. “I only did what needed doing. Anyone could’ve done it”.

“Not like you did”. Loomie checked over the controls as she continued “Stepping up like that, saving that town, getting us out of there with the cargo – makes you a hero, that’s what it does. I’ll tell you something else-“ she stopped as she turned toward Gerrin: the captain’s head was resting against the headrest, tilted slightly to the side. His mouth hung open slightly as his chest rose and receded slowly. Loomie smiled. “Guess the coffee wore off”.

Rising from the pilot’s seat, she stepped quietly to the rear of the cockpit and opened a cabinet door by the hatchway. Pulling out a blanket she unfolded it and moved toward the sleeping captain. Placing it over him she leaned forward and kissed him gently on the head. “Goodnight, hero”, she whispered and returned to her seat as the Nordic Troll sailed silently toward her destination.


……….The End (for now)…



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Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 5)
“We ain’t gonna hold ‘em back, there’s too many”, Roy cried. - - - “Then it should be harder for you to miss!” Aldous shot back. - - - “I think we might need to get outta here”, Roy protested. - - - “Gorram it”, Aldous snapped, “just keep shooting!” As he finished loading and turned to fire he muttered to himself “Gos-se! This must be what it feels like to be Nick”.

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…