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Tales From the Nordic Troll - # 8: Business as Usual (part 4)
Friday, January 8, 2016

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?”


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2544    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

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?”

Reznor stepped to the center of the empty room where Reilly dangled from a rope in the ceiling by his hands. “You think I’d let it go?” he glowered. “You think I’d forget? You had one thing to do, easy as eatin’ pie, and you humped me”.

“You had plenty of other targets, there was no need to start tapping peasants in the projects”, Reilly glared.

“That ain’t the point”, Reznor shouted, backhanding Reilly himself. “I tell you to do a job, you do the job! No questions!”

“And I told you, that’s a line I don’t cross! You want to bleed other bosses, fine - or idiots too stupid to hold on to their own bounty, fine. Not people who got almost nothing!”

Whack! The back of Reznor’s hand struck Reilly again. Reaching out, Reznor grabbed Reilly’s hair and tilted his head upward, bringing his own face within inches of Reilly’s. “You were nothin’ when I found you”, Reznor growled. “Petty street urchin stealin’ change from men’s pockets. Grabbin’ trinkets offa fools not lookin’. I made you, gave you opportunities, and you scuffed me and ran! Now you find out what happens when you cross me”.

“They were beggars!” Reilly snarled, ignoring the trickle of blood from his mouth. “Dirt poor! No threat, no target, nothing to you either way!”

“Yeah”, Reznor grunted, “Almost nothin’, kinda like you now”. Releasing Reilly, Reznor turned and started toward the only exit, a heavy wooden door. “Let him stew for awhile while I conjure what to do with him”, he ordered his guards. Turning the handle and stepping over the threshold, he threw back at Reilly “Good time to think on your sins, boy”. The door swung slowly closed behind him with a dull wooden clunk.

* * *

Loomie turned in the pilot’s chair as Park stepped onto the cockpit deck. “Here”, he stretched out his hand. “I brought you some food”.

“Oh, shie-shie (thank you)!” she smiled as she reached for the package in Park’s hand. Examining the package, she asked “What is it?”

“Some kind of meat in bread. Probably best not to know too much”.

Loomie eyed the roll cautiously. “Is it any good?”

Park shrugged “It’s not food cubes”.

Loomie sniffed carefully at the wrapping in her hand, pinching a small morsel off in her hand and placing it in her mouth. As she slowly chewed on the tiny morsel she commented “Not bad”. Lifting the rolled meat to her mouth and taking a bite, she asked “What kind of meat is it?”

Park hesitated. “Don’t know. Probably better that way”.

Loomie hesitated, scrutinizing the roll for another second, before concluding “Well, thanks anyway. It’s not bad”.

“Captain thought you’d like it”.

“Cap’n looks after his people”.

“Yeah . . .not like the killer he’s supposed to be”.

Huh? Whadoyou mean?"

“How could he be The Butcher of Lotus Ridge?”

“Oh, that’s a load of niou-se (cow dung)", Loomie scoffed. “Nick got scapegoated for someone else’s ban ge naozi (half-wit) ‘intelligence’ gathering. He’s not gonna kill anyone that’s not tryin’ to kill him first”.

“You sound sure”.

“Long as you do right by him, he’ll always do right by you. Trust me”.

“Okay . . . so how do I ‘do right by him’? Other than being a strong back and a trigger finger, what can I do?”

Loomie sat for a second, thinking. Her gaze shifted from the pilot’s console to Park. Turning her eyes toward the copilot’s seat, she asked casually “Ever think of learning to fly?”

Park shrugged.

“Sit, grasshopper”, Loomie gestured to the co-pilot’s seat, “Here begins your first lesson”.

* * *

“Just keep an eye on that dial for now”.

Aldous stood in the engine room on the catwalk between the engines with Wilkins by his side. Both were talking in raised voices to be heard over the loud hum of the engines.

“This a constant thing?” Wilkins asked loudly.

“Nah”, Aldous responded, pulling a rag from a back pocket and wiping the sweat from his forehead. “Just that flow regulator’s just about had its day so for now we have to keep an eye on the gage and make sure it doesn’t lock itself closed”. He offered the rag to Wilkins, who shook her head.

“What if it does that?” she continued.

Aldous turned his attention back toward the gage. “Well, then we’ll have to shut down the engine to keep it from melting itself. Might get thirty minutes at a time out of it, that’s all”.

“Won’t that make a problem getting Reilly back?”

“Maybe”, Aldous continued, “but Nick won’t leave one of his own behind”. He paused before adding sourly “Not even Reilly”.

Wilkins turned to face him. “How do you trust him that much?”

Aldous turned toward her. “You still hanging on that talk you had?”

“I dunno”, Wilkins confessed. “Just tryin’ to get the lay of the land, that’s all”.

Aldous continued “He took you in back in St. Ekaterina instead of leavin’ you to starve. He put us all in the fire to save that town, all because it was right to do. Same thing here, don’tcha think?”

“Yeah, maybe, but right and wrong tend to get a bit fuzzy out here”.

“Don’t I know it”, Aldous agreed.

At that moment they were interrupted by a loud rattling noise. “ ta ma de (Dammit)", Aldous growled. Waving Wilkins toward the door, Aldous trod to the door to the control compartment. Wilkins followed, closing the door behind her as she stepped into the less noisy space. Snatching the handset for the intercom, Aldous announced “Cap’n, you out there?”

After a couple of seconds Gerrin’s voice answered “Yeah, what’s up?”

“That flow regulator I told you about’s just gave out”.

“You said we had another month on it”, Gerrin shot back tersely.

“That was three months ago, Nick”, Aldous came back, just as tersely. “I can’t just un-wear-out a part that’s worn out it’s life”.

Several seconds of silence passed. “Hold on”. Aldous heard a click over the line. “Loomie, pick up”.

“Right here, cap’n”

“Loomie”, Gerrin continued, “Aldous says the flow regulator on the – which is it, Aldous, number one or number two?”

“Number two”, Aldous answered.

“Right – number two engine is stuck and could fry the engine. Can we coast part of the way and cut down on the strain?”

“Don’t see why not. Course it’ll add another hour or so to the trip, and I’ll need the engine back right before we hit atmo, but then we’re good”.

“Good enough. Aldous, shut down number two, use number one for internal power, and we’ll coast until orbit. Good?”

“Shiny”, Aldous replied.

The line went dead. “Come on”, Aldous turned to Wilkins, “I’ll show you how to put an engine in standby”.

“Let’s do it”, Wilkins responded, following Aldous toward the engine room door.

* * *

Reilly stood propped against the side of a pit, waist-deep in water, looking toward the mouth a good twenty feet above his head. Balancing against the side, he took his fist and pounded it against the wall with a dull thud. Mud and clay, he thought to himself, shouldn’t be too hard to dig through. Leaning against the wall, he reached down with the other hand and unlatched his belt. Sliding the belt from around his waist, he raised the buckle to his eyes; standard pass-through belt buckle. Well, has to do, he thought. Have at it. Kneeling in the water and bracing himself against the wall with one hand, he dug the buckle into the dirt wall just above the water level, dislodging a small amount of clay.

* * *

Gerrin placed the handset back into the cradle in med bay. “Now that that’s done”, he continued, turning to Doc, “You’ve been a little cooked a lot, lately”.

Doc sat on a stool, eying him. “Just a rough patch, I’ll be fine”.

Gerrin wasn’t buying it. “Doesn’t seem that way”, he remarked, taking a stool himself. “That town?”

“Just old memories. Give it a day or two and I’ll be all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed”.

Gerrin shook his head. “Doesn’t work that way”, he said evenly. “If the war’s coming back on you, you’ve got a devil you need to deal with”.

Doc’s eyes hardened. “A devil?”

Gerrin nodded “Yep”.

“You forgot what it was like out there?” she asked scornfully.

Gerrin’s stiffened. “I get nightmares all the time, same as you”, he replied icily. “I see people who died, same as you. I catch myself waiting for something to blow up in my face, even out here, wanting to go supernova on someone for a stupid comment . . . hell, this lifestyle out here’s probably as normal as I can handle, now”.

Doc was caught off guard. “How’d you know about all that?”

“Been there”, Gerrin answered flatly. “Done that”.

Doc’s tone softened somewhat. “Okay, so you’re brighter than you look”. As Gerrin looked at her sharply she continued “So who do you talk to?”

“Reilly, Loomie, sometimes Anna”.

“They don’t know what it was like”, Doc mused.

“You use what you’ve got”. Gerrin stood up. “Sometimes it’s better that way. Fresh ears and all”. Starting toward the door he continued “You need to talk about it. Better with someone who’s been there”.

“When I need to, I’ll let you know”.

“When you’re ready, you know where to find me”. Gerrin stopped at the door. “You know, back then, I never really had anything personal against the Independents”.

“That’s okay…” Doc brushed it off. “Forgetting Lotus Ridge, we never really had nothing personal against you”.

“Great. Get a bag ready, we’ll be touching down before too long”.

* * *

Reilly wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his free hand as he paused in digging his way up the side of the pit. Despite the heat he’d managed to dig five handholds into the mud wall in the last two hours, each just large enough to grab by a hand and fit his toes into. He was now perched on the side of the pit wall, completely out of the water.

The heat didn’t help. He had to break every few minutes to catch his breath and give his aching muscles a rest. Still . . . he was making progress: he was out of the water and his shoes were starting to dry out, though they were beginning to stink of mustiness.

He’d been in worse situations, he knew that – he thought to himself as he continued digging the latest handhold. Running from Reznor the first time, that wasn’t much fun, but he’d managed. His first few weeks in prison, those had been interesting. Hooking up with Gerrin and watching each other’s backs, that had made things a little easier. Both of them getting dumped on Whitefall and having to find food and shelter while avoiding the occasional band of marauding Reavers, that had been an exercise in thinking outside the box. Somehow they’d managed to work their way up from there, but that had taken time. And . . . uh-oh-

Reilly braced himself as he slipped from the holds he had dug in the wall and crashed into the water with a splash. Scrambling to raise his head above the water, he found his footing and managed to stand upright. Dripping wet, he stared at the mouth of the pit. Yeah, that worked well, he thought. He stepped over to the wall and began to climb up the handholds he had carved from the wall. Gerrin, he thought to himself, I probably got this, but if you’re coming, get your ass out here.

.

.

. . . . . . To Be Continued...

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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?”


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