Tales From the Nordic Troll - #3: Shanghai'd (part 4)
Sunday, June 9, 2013

Halfway into the hills they came to a spot where the trees thinned out enough that they could be seen from further down the hills. Anna stopped. “Get down!” she ordered quietly but urgently.


Midday found Gerrin, Reilly and Aldous walking along a dirt road through what could have been called the center of the workers’ village in Canton. Few other people were on the street, since most of the residents were either working in the factory or sleeping. They had been discussing how to locate their missing crewmembers. “You want to ask at the foreman’s office first?” Aldous asked.

Gerrin thought for a second. “The ships at the dock first. Then we come back to the factory.”

They continued to look around for signs of Anna and Lewis. Coming into a large open area which appeared to be the town square, they came upon a statue. The statue was of a large man glaring down into the square. A plaque at the bottom identified the subject of the statue. “Who the hell’s Jayne Cobb?” Aldous asked.

“I don’t know,” Gerrin commented, “but something’s got him angry”.

“From the look on his face, you’d think we owed him money” Reilly mused.

“That’s kind of what I meant”. Gerrin turned away. “Come on, we have work to do”.

* * * * *

While Gerrin, Reilly and Aldous made their way through Canton, Anna and Lewis continued to flee from the pursuing guards. They had reached the foothills, where the ground was more solid. The bamboo stalks ended, and short, gnarled trees grew from the ground. They moved swiftly but carefully among the trees, trying to avoid making noise. Every few minutes they stopped just long enough to listen for the pursuing guards. So far they had heard only the occasional sounds of local wildlife.

Anna suddenly froze, stopping Lewis with her arm. “What?” Lewis whispered.

They both listened for several seconds. They could barely hear voices, far behind them but getting closer. “Come on” she pushed Lewis forward.

The two of them moved further into the hills, carefully observing the foliage for possible hiding places. The voices behind them neither faded nor grew louder. Lewis scrambled ahead, with Anna behind him, listening for the approaching guards. Halfway into the hills they came to a spot where the trees thinned out enough that they could be seen from further down the hills. Anna stopped. “Get down!” she ordered quietly but urgently.

Lewis dropped to his hands and knees. “What?”

SHH!” Anna slowly raised her head and peered through an opening in the trees. She saw no sign of the pursuing guards. “Keep low and move slowly”. She started forward, crouching as she went. Lewis followed carefully. They moved from tree to tree as smoothly and silently as possible, with Lewis always one tree behind his mother. After several painfully long minutes they reached a point where the trees became thicker. Anna carefully surveyed the path they had come from, slowly scanning toward the foliage in front of them, before announcing “Okay, we’re safe”. She stood up and began to walk faster, until a sudden *snap* froze her in her tracks. She looked behind her slowly, fearing the worst. She saw Lewis, paralyzed in horror, his foot on a broken branch. Anna listened carefully for any sounds. The voices she had heard before were still far off. “Quick!” she ordered. “This way. They expect us to keep heading uphill”.

“Okay”. Lewis followed his mother as she started along the slope of the hill.

* * * * *

Gerrin moved among the ships at the dock, inquiring about his missing crewmembers. Receiving no satisfactory answers, he proceeded to the foreman’s office, a large, dusty shack overlooking the mud paddies. The meeting lasted fifteen minutes. Reilly and Aldous stood outside, waiting until Gerrin stepped out of the building and approached them. “Well?” Aldous asked.

Gerrin sighed. “The same old story: no conscripts, everyone wants to be here, not forcing anyone, only moochers and freeloaders not working, the same things we’ve heard a thousand times before. Looks like we’ll have to find them on our own”.

“Any ideas where to start?”

“We keep asking around. Someone knows something”.

“Maybe it’s time to just let it be” Reilly interjected.


“You still-“ Reilly broke off as Gerrin held up his hand. Gerrin shifted his eyes first to the right, then to the left, indicating someone was approaching. Reilly and Aldous nodded slightly in acknowledgement. As four men approached Gerrin’s back, Gerrin used his hand to count down from five. As he reached zero, he swung around with his fist and struck the lead man. Reilly charged past Gerrin and shoved his palm into the next man’s nose. The man went down as his nose cracked. The remaining men rushed Gerrin and Reilly as two new men swooped down on Aldous. Reilly skipped sideways, ramming his foot into the side of his attacker. He followed this with a punch to the man’s face. The man stumbled backwards and fled in the other direction. Gerrin’s man swung at Gerrin, first with his left, then with his right. Gerrin ducked both blows, pushed his man back with one leg, brought the same leg down to the ground, and spun on it, bringing his other foot across his opponent’s jaw. His man spun and fell to the ground. Seeing his man was down, Gerrin turned to look at his own men. Reilly had engaged one of the new men, but Aldous was still struggling with his remaining two. Gerrin ran at the three of them and threw a foot at the nearest thug. He caught the thug in the shoulder, knocking him off Aldous and down to the ground. Now evenly matched, Aldous swung around, grabbed his assailant by the hair, and head-butted him. The man collapsed like a marionette with its strings cut. Aldous also staggered backward and sat down hard on the ground. Gerrin let his new opponent swing at him and blocked the punch, trapping the arm. Swinging his elbow onto the trapped arm, Gerrin brought the enemy’s head into his raised knee. The man grabbed his face and went down. Gerrin pinned him to the ground with one foot and looked around. Reilly was standing over his man, breathing heavily. Aldous sat dazed on the ground. Gerrin helped Aldous to his feet. “Come on, the ship’ll be here soon, let’s get this one back there. I have some questions for him.”

* * * * *

Anna and Lewis fled along the side of the hills, moving upward as best they could. The trees were taller in the higher elevation, and large ferns and leafy bushes covered the sloping ground. The ground beneath them rose and receded. Still they continued to move further into the hills as quickly and quietly as possible.

Shortly they heard noises. Anna motioned for Lewis to stop. When Lewis stopped, he heard them, too: voices, getting closer. Someone was ahead of them. They both looked around for a possible escape route: nothing. “We’re humped” Lewis groaned.

“Watch your language” his mother admonished him. Continuing along the slope she searched for a hiding place, her eyes finally landing on a spot. “There”, she pointed. “That dry wash ravine. Behind the bushes”.

Lewis scrambled after her through the bushes into the ravine. “What now?”

“Get down and cover yourself with whatever’s on the ground”. Anna scooped up a handful of leaves and grass and started draping some over her head and shoulders as Lewis followed her lead. The voices they had heard were getting closer. “Now, get down and keep quiet” Anna ordered.

They both lay on the ground and waited. After several protracted minutes two of the guards from the mud factory appeared, both carrying guns. “Forget it, they’re gone” one said.

“They’re still out here. Basser says find ‘em”. The other replied.

“Let Basser come look for ‘em, they ain’t here”.

“One was, others could be. We keep looking”.

The first guard was annoyed. “So three get away, so what? We got plenty”.

His partner looked at him. “Administrator doesn’t want anyone finding out how we get some of ‘em. Could mean trouble, for you and me, too”.

“Alright, alright”. Both men continued on their way. Several long seconds passed as Anna and Lewis listened to the fading footsteps. Once they no longer heard them she stood up and looked around. “Okay, they’re gone” she said. Lewis stood up and they both moved out of the ravine and snuck quietly along their way.

* * * * *

With the Troll now moved to the Canton pad, Gerrin, Aldous and Reilly had dragged Aldous’s attacker back to the ship and strapped him to the table in med bay. Doc and Loomie had joined them in the passageway as Reilly looked through the closed door at the unconscious man. “Okay, we’ve got one of them. How do we go about getting what you want out of him?”

“You want to question him, or shall I?” Gerrin asked Reilly.

“You’re the monster, go in and scare him” Reilly retorted.

“Fine” Gerrin replied. As he started for the door, Doc grabbed his arm. “You are not torturing that man in my med bay” she said firmly.

Gerrin pulled her hand from his arm. “I won’t need to”, he told her.

Doc put her arm across the door, barring his way. “What do you intend to do?”

“Scare him. I’m a monster, remember?”. Gerrin lifted Doc’s arm, opened the med bay door and entered the compartment, closing and locking the door behind him. Doc hissed in exasperation “He’s crazy. He has to be.”

Gerrin reached out and hit the unconscious man across the face. The man stirred and groaned. “Morning”, Gerrin commented. “You’ve had a busy day, haven’t you?”

The man said nothing.

“You took two of my crew, came after three more - what are you, stupid? Don’t you know it’s not a good idea to mess with strangers?”

Wo cao ni! (Screw you!)” the man snapped.

Gerrin whacked him again, this time in the back of the head. “Now, now, now, be nice.”

“Yeah, right" the man sneered. "What are you gonna do now, torture me?”

“Don’t know yet” Gerrin mused, reaching into a side pocket on his pants and slowly pulling out a medium-sized combat knife. “Not sure it’s sharp enough.” Gerrin examined the knife for a few seconds, then put the knife to his left arm and slowly drew it across his forearm. His prisoner’s eyes widened as Gerrin fought to keep from wincing at the pain as a small trickle of blood slowly made its way down his arm. “Not too sharp” he commented as the blood began to drip, “but that just means it’ll hurt more”.

The man burst out “What the hell is wrong with you, man? You nuts?”

“No”, Gerrin answered him, “I’m just having a really bad day and I’m looking to vent”. Gerrin stood over the table, holding his arm over the man, letting the blood slowly drip down on his forehead. “Now, you can tell me what I want to know, or I can vent. Your choice”.

The man struggled to break loose, but was too firmly secured. “Alright, alright!” He finally exclaimed. “”We were told to look for some woman and her kid and bring them back alive. That’s all I know, I swear!”

“Why bring them back if they clearly don’t want to be there?”

“Administrator don’t want anyone knowing how we get some of our labor. He says if they get loose, bring ‘em back on a chain or in a bag.”

“So, why grab people off the street in the first place?”

The man was still worried. “Most ain’t got no one missing ‘em. They need to eat and we can work ‘em cheap, the customers get a deal and we pocket more money”.

Gerrin frowned. “You should be ashamed of yourself”. He turned to leave.

“Hey!” his prisoner cried out. “You just gonna leave me here?”

“Someone will be along to cut you loose soon, if you’re good.” Gerrin started for the door, turning back as he turned the handle. “And if not, I’ll be back to vent some more”. He stepped through and closed the door behind him. On the other side of the door his crew stood in shock. “What the hell was that?” Doc demanded angrily.

“Psychology” Gerrin answered painfully. “It scares a prisoner to see you cutting on yourself: he figures if you’d do that to your own self, what would you do to him?”

“It’s TSWAY niou (bullshit) is what it is” Doc snapped. “You ever pull a stunt like that again in my med bay and I’m off this ship!”

“We needed the information and we needed it hours ago. It’s a quick and dirty solution-“ he paused for a second- “and painful - but it works”.

“But what you just did to yourself-“ Loomie cried in dismay, taking hold of his arm gingerly.

“Worked, didn’t it?” Gerrin grunted as he withdrew his arm. “Now someone give me a bandage”.

“Man,” Aldous broke in, “you got issues”.

Doc disappeared into med bay, reappearing shortly with a roll of gauze, a tourniquet bandage and a small bottle of antiseptic, which she tossed into Gerrin’s chest. “Here” she snapped. “You did it, you fix it”.

“It had to be done”. Gerrin rebounded as he tucked the bottle and bandage under his other arm and unwrapped the gauze. "Not something I’d do regularly”.

"You know", Reilly responded, “you’re going to some severe extremes to save people who are no longer your crew”.

Gerrin looked at him sharply. “They’re my crew until I say they’re not”.

Loomie took the bottle and bandage from Gerrin. “Here, let me do it”. She opened the bottle and poured some of the contents onto the gauze in Gerrin’s hand. Taking the gauze she placed it over Gerrin’s wound and began wrapping the bandage around his arm. “Just please don’t do that again, okay?”

“I don’t plan on it, so everyone stop finjing” Gerrin sighed. Once Loomie had finished, he started for the cargo bay. “Aldous, cut the man loose in an hour. Doc and Reilly, you’re with me. Let’s go get our crew.”

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



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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.

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?”