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Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 4)
Sunday, December 31, 2017

“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”.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1654    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The sun had cleared the horizon as Gerrin, Aldous, Reilly, Park followed Auntie at a trot to where the rows of corn stalks opened up on the clearing in front of the farm house. A dozen or so men stood in front of the wooden door to the farm house blocking the way to six armed men trying to force their way in. The mood of the crowd and the “visitors” was tense and deteriorating rapidly.

As they grew closer Gerrin could hear one of the intruders drawl loudly "You boys just ain’t very bright at all, are you? Boss gives you a chance to get outa this with a lil’ money an’ your hides intact and you just wanna hang around an’ get your asses whooped. Y’all are just a special kind of stupid, aren’t ya?”

“This ain’t yours”, one of the defenders shot back petulantly. “Y’all sold it to Auntie fair up. We’re staying, so git on up outta here and tell your Boss we ain’t interested”

“Wrong answer, son”, the leader of the intruders drawled as he motioned his men forward. The farmers in front of the door crouched and advanced, raising what weapons they had. The two sides crashed together and struggled for seconds until a sharp CRACK! Made them all jump and whirl toward the approaching party, including Auntie, who was fifteen feet ahead of Gerrin.

Gerrin held his gun in the air for a second before lowering it. “I think what we have here is a failure to communicate” he announced loudly.

The leader of the intruders eyed him. “Oh, we’s communicatin’ jus’ fine, scrub”. As he slowly strode forward he added “You people jus’ hard on comprehendin’”.

“That so?” Gerrin raised an eyebrow as he looked at the farmers. “Looks to me like we’re comprehending just fine”.

Auntie glared at the leader. “You’ve come here after something that’s not yours and you’re just not gettin’ it. Now, go back an’ tell yer boss to keep his vermin off our land”.

The leader sneered at her. “I’m thinkin’ since we got the guns an’ you got pitchforks you’ll be the ones doin’ as you’re told”.

“Not all, and looks can be deceiving”, Gerrin smirked.

The leader turned to him. “So can a low down dirty - “ the leader paused, searching for the word “ - deceiver”.

“Well, now I can see why you’re the man in charge”, Gerrin snorted lightly.

“I’m the man in charge ‘cause I get what I want”. As he came within an arm’s length of Gerrin, he swung his gun hand at Gerrin. Gerrin swung his free hand in an arc, deflecting the leader’s gun hand. As his arm came around, Gerrin grabbed the leader’s wrist and tried to lock his arm. The leader twisted and tried to mule-kick Gerrin. Gerrin released his opponent’s arm and grabbed for the leg, bringing his other hand down in a fist into the leader’s knee. The leader yelped in pain.

As Gerrin fought with the intruders’ leader several of the unwelcomed guests started toward their leader as the rest attacked the farmers. Reilly, Aldous and Park moved to intercept Gerrin’s new attackers as several of the farmers lunged toward their own attackers. Rifle barrels and pitchforks waved in the air, fists flew, men on both sides went down. Sporadic shots rang out, most soaring harmlessly into the air. Slowly the angry swarm of men drifted away from the farm house as the farmers managed to push the intruders back.

Gerrin, on the ground on top of his attacker, swung one last time at his opponent, finally knocking him out. Catching his breath he looked up at the dissipating storm of men in front of the house: several farmers were down, but so were most of the intruders. Those that could still stand were fleeing back down the road with Reilly in pursuit.

Reilly caught up to the fleeing man, tackling him before he could retreat through the barbed wire fence at the edge of the property. The man twisted, trying to get in a better position to fight, but only managed to get himself pummeled by the raging Reilly.

Gerrin raced down the path toward them. “Alright, Reilly” he huffed loudly, “he’s down”.

Reilly continued his assault until his target went limp.

“He’s DOWN! Get off him!”

Reilly, panting, sat up straight and looked at Gerrin. “He was putting up a fight”, he huffed in a voice that was almost a snarl.

“So you try to kill him?” Gerrin demanded, examining Reilly closely. “You wouldn’t be holding some leftover hostility from the last job, would you?”

“Nah”, Reilly shrugged as he caught his breath and his temper. “Rough day”.

“Right”. Gerrin muttered irritably. “Because the whole crew goes fong luh duh (crazy) whenever the mood takes ‘em”.

“Part of the job”, Reilly offered.

“Yeah, right”.

Aldous and Park caught up with them. “So, are we taking this?” Aldous asked.

“Better not”.

The four of them looked at the man on the ground, who had regained consciousness. “We’re holdin’ all the cards, here, ladies. Best thing you could do is start runnin’ now while you still can”, he jeered.

“Yeah, but you never know when a wild card’ll show up and change the game”, Reilly smirked back. “That’s us”, he added as he swung to the man’s temple and knocked him out again. “Wild cards”.

Gerrin looked at Reilly somewhat disapprovingly. “You done, now?”

Reilly looked at the downed man. “Yeah – for now”.

Gerrin gestured to Park. “Park, you go with Reilly and lock this one somewhere where he can’t cause any more trouble. Aldous, you’re with me”. Pulling the comlink from his pocket he called “Loomie?”

After a moment Loomie’s voice responded “Yeah, cap’n, right here”.

“Grab whoever’s free and grab the loader and get out here with as much supplies as Shepherd’s people can spare”.

“You want Doc, too?”

“She dried out yet?”

Loomie paused. “No”.

Gerrin sighed. “Leave her be, then. And have someone watch her for us”.

“Wilkins says she’ll do it”.

Gerrin exhaled sharply through his nose. “Fine. Get out here as soon as you can”. Shutting off the comlink and shoving it in his pocket, he continued “In the meantime, let’s look around and see what we can do to harden up these defenses”. Gerrin turned toward the house.

Reilly, Aldous and Park looked at each other. “What defenses?” Park asked.

Aldous sighed “Well, give us awhile”. He turned to follow Gerrin as Park stepped forward to help Reilly wrestle the unconscious man into a carrying position.

.

.

Once their prisoner was secured Reilly and Park joined Gerrin, Aldous and Auntie looking for ways to improve the defensibility of the farm. Auntie had brought several farm hands with her. Together they carefully circled the property, with Gerrin and Aldous describing the type of defenses they wanted to put in place. Aldous had drawn pictures for the farmers that stayed at each point to work on the positions.

Two hours into the preparations Loomie, Anna and Lewis arrived in the Mule, towing a small wagon behind them. Loomie and Anna rode in the Mule, Lewis rode in the wagon.

Gerrin met them in front of the farm house. “What have we got?” he asked.

Loomie climbed from behind the wheel. “Well, we got guns and ammo, med stuffs, and some bag-of-dirty-tricks stuff Reilly wanted for if we took the job”.

“What kind of dirty tricks stuff?”

Loomie’s face snapped into a frown. “Talk to him”, she jerked her head toward Lewis.

Gerrin turned toward Lewis. “Lewis, what kind of dirty tricks did Reilly want?”

Lewis looked at the two women tentatively. “Just stuff”, he answered quickly.

“Just ‘stuff’?”

Lewis nodded cautiously. “Yuh”.

“Right”. Gerrin returned to business. “Find him and get set up, then.”

“Goin’”. Lewis grabbed a box sitting next to him and hopped off the wagon, moving with barely subdued haste toward the house.

Gerrin turned toward Loomie. “You riding him about … that thing?”

Loomie glared at him sternly. “You know it”.

“Well, don’t kill him yet, we may need him later”. Turning to Anna he said “Anna, I’ll need you with me to talk to these farmers. We need to get them on board with this plan right now”.

“Okay”, Anna climbed from the Mule. “What’s the plan?”

“I’ll explain it on the way in. Meeting’s in ten minutes”. Gerrin gestured toward the door.

.

.

The meeting did not go well.

Gerrin and Anna stood in the corner of the main room as Gerrin tried to explain what he needed from the farmers seated in the few chairs or leaning against the walls. For the most part, their response was lukewarm.

“We’ve already got pieces in play, here, and a plan’s coming together, but you people are part of it”, he urged.

Several farmers nodded and grunted their agreement. Most, though, were silent.

Gerrin and Anna noticed the silence. “Gentlemen”, Anna broke in, “we’re here to help, but you have to kick in as well”.

“We ain’t fighters, mister”, one of the quiet farmers spoke up. “That’s what we need you for”.

“Dammit, Lester”, one of the supportive farmers lurched off the wall, “don’t you give a damn ‘bout what’s goin’ on here?” he snapped.

“Maybe I’m just not lookin’ to die a hero, Earl”, Lester shot back petulantly.

“Yeah, you showed that out front earlier”, Earl rasped.

Another of the quiet ones broke in “Whaddoyou think we wanted a gun hand for?”

“Oh, shut up, Roy”, Earl snapped. “You never stood up to a fight in your life!”

“’Cause I know when I’m outgunned!” Roy bellowed back.

“NEEmen de bizUI (Everybody shut the hell up)!” Anna suddenly bellowed loudly. “Now, listen to what he has to say!” She gestured toward Gerrin.

“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 land that has heroes, huh?” he growled. As he turned and pushed his way toward the door he added “Pity the land that needs ‘em”. The door slammed behind him.

Anna stared toward the door for a moment, then turned toward the silent farmers. “Never do for yourself what you can get some fool to do for you, is that it?” she demanded in a voice as hard as nails.

The silent farmers sat there, looking embarrassed.

Anna eyed them harshly. “You love your homes so much you’re just gonna roll over and let some inbred pack curs take ‘em from you? And you call yourselves men?

Still they sat there.

“We ain’t fighters, ma’am”, the one named Roy finally protested. “Worst we handled was a couple ornery cows, that’s all”.

Anna gazed around the room for several seconds. “Anybody here heard of a planet called Deadwood?”

Several nodded.

“A couple months back that man-“ She jerked her head toward the door “- rallied up a bunch of Alliance soldiers and a crew of nine to beat off a bunch of backbirths who thought they wanted to be Reavers. Three hundred of ‘em already sacked a town and then he came in and pulled a couple dozen of us together and he and us swept the dirt with ‘em”. She paused to let that sink in. “Nick Gerrin knows how to get things done. He knows how to move people. And if he’s gonna put you in harm’s way, he’ll be right there beside you the whole time”.

After an awkward brief silence one of the quiet ones spoke up. “Well, lady…” he started uncomfortably, “if we were gonna do this…what exactly would we be doin’?”

-

McGarrity and the assembled Troll crew froze in mid-conversation as Gerrin burst into the kitchen. “Everybody get your stuff”, he commanded sharply, “job’s off”.

McGarrity rose from his chair. “What happened in there?”

“They don’t want to fight”, Gerrin fumed. “Not most of ‘em. They want us to take care of it”.

“Jien tah-duh gway (Like hell)” Loomie blurted. “There’s no way we’re going out there all by ourselves”.

“None of us are. Get the mule and the horses ready, we’re outta here”. Gerrin turned angrily toward the door.

McGarrity stepped forward to block his way. “You’re not just going to cut and run, are you?” he asked critically.

“More like walk”, Gerrin snorted.

“You know you can’t do that, Nick”, McGarrity chided gently. “That’s not your way”.

Gerrin responded hotly “I’m not risking my crew for a bunch of quivering meat sacks afraid to stand up for their own home”.

“There are still a few”, McGarrity reminded him.

“Not enough, from the sound of things”, Reilly broke in sternly.

Park interrupted them. ”Excuse me, but didn’t we come out here to do some good?”

“Good for who?” Loomie exclaimed. “These people don’t even want to help themselves, just get us to do it while they watch”.

“She’s right”, Aldous broke in. “I’ve already got enough defenses up so they can take it from here – if they grow some backbone”.

“For once, I agree with Aldous”, Reilly commented. “I’m not sticking my neck out for someone who won’t help themselves”.

Aldous turned to stare at Reilly. “You agreeing with me?”

Reilly looked at him. “Who are you and what have you done with Jamie Reilly?” Aldous quipped.

McGarrity continued “You’ve all spent this part of your life helping people who needed it. And you, Nick”, he turned toward Gerrin, “You know you can’t turn and run now. It’s not your way”.

Gerrin snorted “Not our way to put ourselves through the intake for a bunch of shpionui trusie (spineless cowards), either! Call the local authorities, let them handle it!”

“Nick, this isn’t Londinium or Sihnon. Local officials here are pretty much in one baron or another’s pocket”.

“Oh, and here I was starting to think I was on a core planet”, Gerrin responded sarcastically.

“Whatever else you think, you know if you back out now–“ McGarrity turned toward the rest of the Troll crewmembers “-all of you - this will eat at you”. Turning back to Gerrin he continued “And Auntie’s willing to pay what she can for your services”. He paused before adding “And I might be able to sweeten the pot myself. Besides, what else have you got?”

Gerrin rebutted “I check the cortex three time a day, something’ll come up”.

“And if it doesn’t?” McGarrity asked evenly.

“We’ll manage”, Gerrin grunted as he turned and stormed out the door.

McGarrity and the Troll crewmembers watched him go. “So I guess you can tell he’s mad if he starts cussing in… Russian, was it?” Park asked.

“Russian”, Loomie nodded. “Yep”.

“You’re okay until he starts yelling in Russian, Chinese and English all at once. Then, run”, Aldous threw in.

Park stared at the door. “So, not likely he’ll change his mind?”

“I kinda sorta hope not”, Loomie mused.

* * *

Gerrin stopped outside the door, fuming. He stood there, trying to compose himself. As he stood there waiting for his temper to subside he observed a young boy struggling with a small device in his hands. The boy fumbled with the thing for a minute as he watched. Finally Gerrin stepped toward the boy. “Havin’ some trouble, there?” he asked.

The boy looked up. “Them wahg-ba DAN duh biao-tze (whores of sonsabitches) broke it”, he frowned angrily.

“Your mama know you use that kind of language?” Gerrin bent down beside him. “Let me take a look”, he offered.

The boy turned the contraption over to him and watched as Gerrin examined what looked to be a makeshift water pump in his hands. “This for your well?” he asked.

The boy nodded.

After a minute he concluded “Here’s your problem: One of our gatecrashin’ guests must’ve bent the rotor guard right here so it’s rubbing against the shaft. This should fix it”. Gerrin produced a pocket tool with equipped with pliers. Extending the pliers he reached into the pump housing. Feeling the bent guard he pushed. After a few seconds he pulled the pliers out and peered into the opening he’d reached through. Satisfied, he grasped the shaft and turned it. “Looks like that did it”, he commented and handed the pump back to the boy.

“Thanks, mister”, the kid grinned. “My mama keeps sayin’ there’s still good people out there”, he added as he stood with the pump in his hands and trotted away.

Gerrin stood there for several minutes as the kid’s last words echoed over and over in his mind. A struggle was taking place between his contempt for cowardice and his compassion for others. As his compassion won he exploded “Faaaagghh”, turned and stormed back into the house. “All right”, he fumed, “I’m finishing this job. Anyone who wants to sit out can sit out. But I and whoever wants to stick are gonna do this job and then we get paid and we’re out of here”.

“Whah?” Loomie and Aldous chorused.

“You heard me”, Gerrin commanded sharply. “Those that still want to work, get to it”.

Loomie looked at him, shocked. “Cap’n, can I have a minute? Alone?”

Gerrin looked at her and turned toward the others. “Give us a minute”.

They waited until the others had left the room. “Nick, what’re you doing?” Loomie demanded.

“The job”, Gerrin answered sternly. “What’s the problem?”

“You know, this is getting a little old”, Loomie started to protest “It’s great that you always wanna help people and all, but these don’t even want to help themselves. We’ll be out there alone . . . almost”.

“You wanna walk, walk”, Gerrin shot back tersely. “I’m sticking”.

“Why?” Loomie demanded, ”’cause you’re the bright shiny hero comes running in when people need you to fix things?”

“It’s kept us getting paid, hasn’t it?”

“Yeah”, Loomie retorted, “but our luck ain’t been all that shiny, lately, and we’ll be way outnumbered out there. Face it, this job ain’t worth gettin’ killed over”.

“Well, we got a plan in play that’ll still work, even with less numbers, and getting killed isn’t part of it”, Gerrin retorted.

“Yeah, but what you plan and what winds up happening don’t follow hand in hand all that often”, she reminded him tensely.

“We’ve managed so far”, Gerrin shot back.

“We’ve been lucky so far”, Loomie retorted. “That luck ain’t gonna last forever”.

“You wanna jump outta here? Go back out? With no job lined up? How long you think we’d last before we’re back to one meal a day and rationing water and a sponge bath once a week? I’m gonna stick with this. Walk if you want, stick if you want, but a handful of good people're asking for help, they’re willing to pay, so I’m gonna help”.

Loomie stared at him. “Yeah”, she drawled mockingly, “’cause we all know how you like to be needed”. Turning, she stormed toward the door. As she grabbed the knob, she turned back scornfully. “You know, you got people around you that need you, too. You ever think of that?” Twisting the knob savagely, she threw the door open and stormed out, pushing Reilly aside as he tried to enter.

Watching her storm off, Reilly commented wryly “Well, looks like that went well, whatever it was”.

“She doesn’t want the job any more”, Gerrin shrugged.

“You blame her?” Reilly mused. As Gerrin’s last sentence registered, he stiffened. “Wait, what? We’re back on this?”

Gerrin nodded. “Those that want to. We do the job, we get paid, we go”.

“Just like that?”

“Something like that“.

”And you’re worried about my sanity”, Reilly grunted. “And if this job puts us in the dirt?”

“Well, then, you’ll never have to ask for time off again, will you? Just get the easter eggs up and running”. Gerrin marched out of the room, yanking the door shut behind him.

“Lewis is working on it”, Reilly called after him. As the door slammed shut he grumbled to himself “Jing tsai (splendid) . . . Wuh tzai chien shr ee-ding ruh dao shuh-muh run luh bah (I surely annoyed someone or other in a past life, didn’t I…)”

Gerrin stepped from the farm house just as Anna approached. “Oh, there you are. I got a few of the farmers turned around. I don’t know how much use they’ll be, but at least it increases our numbers”.

Gerrin stopped. “How’d you do that?”

“Told ‘em how you rode the bull to ground on Deadwood”.

“Rode the bull – “ Gerrin started. “We flame-broiled those “Swords” people with the main engines”.

“Well, I might have been a little vague on that part”, Anna shrugged.

“Blew down half the town, too”.

“Yeah, they didn’t need to know that, either”.

“And you’re fine with this?” Gerrin asked pointedly.

“Well . . . “ Anna mused, “not entirely, but we do need more hands if we’re gonna do this. Besides, one of them says these people have bullied some of the neighboring farms as well and he thinks he knows a few people that might be willing to help out”.

Gerrin nodded slowly. “Okay . . . good. Get the ones here to helping Aldous and the rest with the defenses then take our little diplomat around to these farms and get us all the help you can. And while I think of it”, he added almost grimly, “I need to have a quick talk with Lewis”.

“About the women’s shower back in town?”

Gerrin stiffened. “How’d you know ‘bout that?”

Anna held up her hand. “Don’t worry about it. I already took care of it”.

“When?”

Anna’s face darkened. “When they tried to take a look at me”.

“Okay . . . let’s get to it, then”. Gerrin turned toward the house, fighting back shocked laughter. Good God, he thought to himself, no wonder Lewis looks so spooked.

.

.

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

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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”.