Tales From the Nordic Troll #10: Rule 303 (Part 2)
Friday, May 3, 2024

Reilly positioned himself in his saddle. “Oh, I have every faith that whenever you initiate a plan, the ‘verse goes off sideways”, he remarked as he fell in beside Gerrin and they started toward town.


The scattered blades of grass in the open field were flattened to the ground as the Nordic Troll’s thrusters eased the ship to the ground. The ship gently nestled in a cloud of dust, which slowly dissipated as the engines wound down to rest.

Minutes later the main cargo door slowly swung down to rest on the ground. A small powered cargo loader rolled down the ramp carrying Gerrin and his main henchman and co-owner of the ship, Jamie Reilly. Strapped across the small cargo platform on the back of the loader lay the gangster boss McMillan, bound in a fetal position with a hood over his head.

Gerrin looked around and said “Town’s that way-“. Turning, he said “-so we go this way. Intel says there’s a spider-hole five miles along the ridge, that should hold him for a good long while.”

Reilly looked at him. “One of those hideouts used by the Independents during the war?”

“Yup”, Gerrin answered. “Cortex chatter said smugglers used it ‘till recently to hole up in when the heat’s on”.

“What happened to the smugglers?”

“Caught, killed, lying low somewhere else, who knows?”

“Oh, that’s very reassuring”, Riley added dryly.

“Let’s get moving”. Raising his comm box, Gerrin announced “Loomie, we’ll be back in two hours. If you don’t see or hear from us in three, you take the ship and come get us. Use the locator beacon on the loader. Got it?”

“Copy, cap’n”, Loomie’s reply came back. “Ju ni hao yun (good luck)”.

“We’ll be fine”, Gerrin responded. Turning to mount the loader, he said “Let’s ride”.

They rode for the first hour through rough fields and dry washes toward the designated coordinates. The hot dusty wind that blew across the desert was annoying but tolerable. Their prisoner, McMillan, grunted loudly every time the loader hit a bump or a rut, which was often, but otherwise lay still. The bumpy ride passed mostly in silence.

After a little over an hour they reached a point where the rough path narrowed at the base of the rocky hills. Gerrin stopped the loader and checked the notes he had written on a scrap of paper while scanning the Cortex during his shift in the cockpit. “Yep”, he announced, “this looks to be it”.

“Shiny”, Reilly grunted, “now how about yanking my spine back into place?”

“Soon”. Dismounting the loader, Gerrin started up the small hill to a break in the rocks. Turning back, he gave a thumbs-up to Reilly. Stepping inside the hole, he looked around: a few cots, a makeshift table with some tools and parts of weapons, none of which looked useable. Several trunks sat on the ground by the table. Opening one, Gerrin found boxes of food packs. Turning to the next one, he discovered several jugs of water. In a third he found several small bottles mixed in with other things. Cautiously he opened one of the bottles and sniffed. Raising the bottle to his lips he took a tentative sip: sure enough, homemade booze.

Placing the bottle back where he found it, Gerrin wiped the sweat from his brow and started back toward the entrance to the small cave. Making his way down the hill, he announced “We’re good to go. Let’s drag his ass up there and be done with him”.

Reilly yanked McMillan upright and removed the hood from his head. “Welcome to your new home, son”, he said as he removed the gag from McMillan’s mouth.

Gerrin reached them and grabbed McMillan’s other side. Looking toward the cave he announced “You can work on cutting yourself loose up there. There’s a knife in the hole you can use”

McMillan squirmed as they lifted him off the loader. “You’re gonna regret that”, he grunted.

“Not really’, Reilly told him, “it’s an old knife, kinda dull”.

Gerrin looked at Reilly, then continued “There’s food and water in there, not very fresh, but should last you for a time”.

“How kind of you”, McMillan said flatly.

“No weapons to speak of”, Reilly looked at Gerrin, who shook his head, “but since you’re the only nastiness out here, you should be fine”.

“Of course”.

Gerrin went on. “Town’s about twenty miles that way, but they probably got people looking for you, too. Might behoove you to stay here and ponder the error of your ways for now”.

“You think this is over now?”, McMillan glared at them, smiling smugly. “I got-“

“Oh, it’s over”, Reilly broke in, “Alliance thinks you stiffed them”.

Reaching the mouth of the cave, they forced McMillan to his knees. “Might wanna stay here and stay away from your old home for…” Gerrin paused, “ever, too, since something bad could happen elsewise”.

McMillan glared at him. “You better start worrying ‘bout something bad happening to you ‘n yours when I get-“ a shot cut McMillan off as it struck him in the chest. He fell forward as Gerrin and Reilly dropped to the ground instantly. Several shots followed as they crawled to the nearby rocks for cover.

“Do we just make friends wherever we go?” Reilly yelled, drawing his gun and firing.

“Yep, that’s our thing!” Gerrin yelled back, drawing his own weapon and firing.

As they exchanged shots with their unseen attackers, Reilly shouted “We didn’t come prepped for a shooting match! One mag left!”

Gerrin fired two more shots, then shouted “Hold on, I got an idea!”

“That’s what scares me!” Reilly snapped as a bullet CRACKed off the rock that was his cover.

“Cover me!’ Gerrin shouted as he scuttled like a bug into the spider hole as bullets bounced off the top of the cave entrance. Once he entered the cave he leapt forward upright, grabbing at the bottle of homemade booze. Ripping the top out of an adjacent bottle, he snorted: yep, more booze. Grabbing at two pieces of cloth meant to be makeshift bandages, Gerrin stuffed the rags into the tops of the bottles. Frantically searching the tabletops, he found a long-nose lighter. After three attempts the lighter lit. Gerrin lit the rags and jumped toward the mouth of the cave. Holding the bottles aloft he flung them one after the other in the direction of his attackers yelling “PARTY TIME, BOYS!”.

Gerrin’s tosses were excellent. The bottles shattered, one after the other, on top of the rocks protecting the attackers, causing balls of flame to erupt on the rocks. The startled attackers jumped back and out into the open. Reilly immediately shot one, who went down. A second attacker continued to fire until Gerrin shot him seconds later.

As the echo from Gerrin’s last shot died off, Reilly stood up. “Well, that all went as planned, didn’t it?” he drawled sarcastically.

Gerrin ignored the remark. “How are you on ammo?”

Reilly checked his weapon. “Two rounds left”.

“I’m out”, Gerrin announced as he checked his.

Reilly looked to where their attackers fell. “What about them?”

Gerrin wiped the sweat and dirt from his brow, shrugging “Well, I doubt they’ll be needing theirs any time soon”.

They approached the fallen men and bent down. Reilly lifted a weapon and inspected it. “This one’s got a mag and some change”, he announced. “Yours?”

Gerrin picked up a pistol and released the magazine. Peering inside he said “Close to full”.

“Good”, replied Reilly, scanning the horizon around them. “Doesn’t look like there’re any more. Let’s get the loader and head back to the ship”.

“Carefully, just in case there’s more out there”. Gerrin turned and started back toward the loader with Reilly close behind. As they reached the vehicle, Gerrin’s shoulders slumped. “What’s wrong?” Reilly asked.

Gerrin gestured. “Take a look”.

Reilly stepped up beside him and peered to where Gerrin had gestured. A steady trickle of liquid, looking and smelling like the loader’s fuel trickled down the narrow running board on the driver’s side. “Well that’s just gorram great”, he hissed. “Now what?”

Gerrin looked around, searching for something. “Well, our friends got out here somehow”, he mused. “I’m sure they won’t mind if we borrow their ride”.

“Where is it?”

“Look around, you know they didn’t just walk”, Gerrin said with a touch of annoyance.

“Let’s hope not”. Reilly turned and started walking outward from where they had parked the now-crippled loader as Gerrin started in a perpendicular direction.

They searched for fifteen minutes or so before Reilly came across a dead tree with two horses tied to it. He raised his fingers to his mouth and let out a sharp short whistle. Gerrin reached him in a couple of minutes and Reilly announced “Found ‘em”.

“Good”. Gerrin mounted one and said “Now we head for town”

“Why town? Loomie and the rest’ll be looking for us here”.

“I don’t want any of our friends’ friends tracking us out here”. Gerrin turned and rode back to where the loader was parked. Dismounting, he leaned into the driver’s side and started turning the wheel. “Gimme a hand, here”.

“What’re you doing?” Reilly asked.

“Leaving a note”, Gerrin replied.

“Of course. What was I thinking?” Reilly grumbled dismounting his horse.

“Just push”. Gerrin leaned into the loader and edged forward, grunting. Reilly braced himself against the tailgate and pushed as well. “And what’s our lofty objective here?” Reilly grunted.

As the loader slowly arced to the left Gerrin revealed his purpose. “Point it toward town, draw and arrow or something on the seat and they’ll figure it out”.

“And hope our friends’ friends don’t find it first. Great plan”, Reilly opined piously.

“If you got better, now’s the time”. As the loader moved rolled into the proper position, both men stood up and wiped the sweat from their brows. Gerrin reached down, grabbed a handful of dirt, and poured it on the driver’s seat. Molding it into an arrow pointing forward, he stood. “Okay”, he announced, “Hope for the best-“

“And prepare for the worst”, Reilly finished.

“Have a little faith”. Gerrin remounted his horse and turned toward town. “Let’s go”.

Reilly positioned himself in his saddle. “Oh, I have every faith that whenever you initiate a plan, the ‘verse goes off sideways”, he remarked as he fell in beside Gerrin and they started toward town.





- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - To Be Continued - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -



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Tales From the Nordic Troll #10: Rule 303 (Part 3)
He had no idea how much time had passed before the darkness behind his eyes grew light again and everything slowly came into focus. Turning his head painfully to one side he focused on Reilly, who said groggily “Found ‘em”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll #10: Rule 303 (Part 2)
Reilly positioned himself in his saddle. “Oh, I have every faith that whenever you initiate a plan, the ‘verse goes off sideways”, he remarked as he fell in beside Gerrin and they started toward town.

Tales From the Nordic Troll #10: Rule 303 (Part 1)
At the ladder from the cockpit she turned back. “But you know that what you plan and what happens don’t always match up”.
“We’re still flying”, Gerrin answered, then added “That’s what counts”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll #9: WIld Cards (part 6)
“Gentlemen, or – whatever”, Nick Gerrin announced, “Game’s over. Your boss split. Took all his money and vamoosed outta here. Some kind of Alliance trouble, I heard”. He paused before continuing, “Stand down. You ain’t gettin’ paid today. My friends and I got the high ground and you’ve been left high and dry”.

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.