Tales From the Nordic Troll - #5: Sidetracked (part 3)
Thursday, February 6, 2014

The pirate turned and rammed the butt of his rifle into Aldous’s stomach. Aldous doubled over in pain. The rest of the crew tried to move toward him, but the guards blocked them. “What, you throwing words at me now, boy?” the attacker demanded. - - - Despite his pain, Aldous glared up at the man. “Why? You need help with the big ones?” - - - The guard turned his muzzle toward Aldous. “Cerrado (enough)!” his boss snapped. “We get the package first!” Turning back to Gerrin, the leader ordered “Now, give us the runner, or you get to watch us have some fun with your lady friends, here”. - - - Gerrin started to protest, but Inabran cut him off. “Why are you talking to HIM?” she demanded. Pointing at Ammon, she declared “HE’s the courier”.


“Where’d they come from?” Gerrin asked as he reached the top of the ladder.

“Don’t know”, Loomie answered. “They’ve been there about ten minutes. Not running a pulse beacon or navsat, that’s why we didn’t see ‘em ‘till now”.

Gerrin slid into the co-pilot’s seat. “So somebody didn’t want us to see them until they were right on top of us”.

“Yeah, but why?” Loomie turned to look at him. “You don’t think it’s another bounty hunter looking for your head, do you?”

“Hard to tell”, Gerrin mused. “It’s not Reavers: they’re running with containment and closing slowly”. Thinking for a second, he decided “Speed up a bit, let’s see what they do”.

“Okay”. Loomie took the intercom handset from its hanger and announced “Everyone, everyone, we have to do a little maneuvering to avoid an incoming ship, so hold on to something”.

Replacing the handset, Loomie accelerated the ship. In less than a second, the pursuing ship accelerated toward them and a third blip appeared on the screen, moving quickly from the other object toward them. “They’re firing!” Loomie exclaimed.

“Evasive maneuvers!” Gerrin commanded.

Loomie banked to the left and accelerated the Troll away from the two blips. The third object continued to close on the scope. Five seconds later, a missile passed close under the hull and exploded in front of the ship. “They overshot!” Loomie exclaimed in relief.

“Or it was a warning shot”, Gerrin corrected her. “Any chance of outrunning them?”

A voice crackled on the radio. “Transport ship, cut your engines and prepare to be boarded. Try to run and we will end you”.

Gerrin grabbed the handset and flipped a switch. “This is the commercial transport Nordic Troll. What seems to be the problem?”

Two seconds later they heard the sound of bullets bouncing off the hull behind them. “I’m not gonna tell you again”, the voice at the other end of the comm rasped.

“Well, that answers that”, Gerrin fumed. “Pirates”.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Damn, I shouldn’t have packed away the tail guns”, Gerrin muttered.

“Well, you did”, Loomie reminded him.

Turning toward her he answered sardonically “Yes, I remember”. Turning back to the screen he said “All right, cut power to the engines, make it look like we’re shutting down, then do a hard start and full burn to the nearest moon. We’ll try to lose ‘em there”.

Loomie flipped several switches. “I just hope we don’t have a burn out”, she muttered.

Through the deck plates, they could feel the slowing vibrations as the ship’s engines began to shut down. Both she and Gerrin watched the screen as the other ship grew closer. Suddenly, Loomie flipped the switches to their original position and pushed the throttle full forward. The engines roared back to life and throughout the ship crew and passengers were flung rearward as the Troll lunged forward, her aft quarter exploding in light. The pursuing ship, caught off guard, fell back before accelerating after its prey.

The chase continued for forty five minutes. Loomie managed to keep the Troll just out of firing range of the other ship all the way into the moon’s orbit. Holding the ship at a shallow angle, Loomie hit the edge of the atmosphere, skipping the ship off the outer envelope like a stone skimming a pond. As they bounced upward she pulled back on the control stick and put the ship in a loop. The pursuing ship, higher up and expecting the Troll’s bounce, were not prepared for the loop. As Loomie veered upward toward their attackers, the other ship pulled hard to the right to avoid a collision. The other ship fought to regain control as Loomie continued through the loop and descended into the atmosphere in an almost vertical dive. “Don’t burn the heat block off!” Gerrin warned her as the outer hull began to glow dull red from atmospheric friction.

Loomie dove the Troll through the patchy clouds, leveling off five hundred feet over a lush jungle. Several times she skirted low-lying hills and followed shallow gorges, making random turns to confuse the other ship in case they had managed to follow them down. Ten minutes into re-entry she finally set the ship down in a grassy clearing behind several large rocks. Shutting down the engines, she and Gerrin waited quietly for several minutes for any sign of pursuit.

“Do you think we lost them?” Loomie finally asked quietly.

Bullets suddenly pinged rapidly off the cockpit windows, causing them both to duck instinctively. When the pinging stopped, they both rose slowly. “Obviously not” Gerrin answered ruefully as he raised his hands before the men poised with the machine guns and grenade launchers on the rocks above. As one of the gunmen jerked his weapon’s muzzle toward the cargo bay door, Gerrin reached slowly for the intercom handset. “Attention everyone”, he announced. “”We’re about to be boarded. I need everyone to get to the cargo bay, no weapons, just be calm”. Hanging up the handset he turned to Loomie. “Let’s go”.

Loomie followed Gerrin down the ladder. “What’re we gonna do?” She asked worriedly.

“I don’t know, I’m still working on it”, Gerrin muttered.

The crew and passengers assembled in the cargo bay, standing with their hands away from their sides. Gerrin stepped to the control panel and pushed the button to lower the bay ramp. As the ramp settled on the jungle floor several armed men strode into the bay. “Buenas Dias, ladies and gentlemen”, the lead man called out boisterously. “Welcome to my little corner of the ‘Verse”. Turning to Gerrin, the lead man said “You are the captain of this ship?”

“I am”, Gerrin replied evenly.

“Well, captain, that was a nice run, but you’re not the first to try that. Now, you have a few things we want, and if you hand ‘em over, we just might let you live”. He gestured his men up the starboard ladder.

Gerrin raised his hands. “All we have is what you see here: passengers, some food stuffs and some spare parts”.

The man laughed, “Aw, come now, amigo, you undervalue yourself. That can be a problem in a man of your standing”.

“Sometimes overvaluing what you want can be as big a problem”, Gerrin answered.

The man shook his head. "No, this thing I want has a great deal of value to certain people. The other stuff is just incidentals”. Turning to the rest of his prisoners, he demanded “Which one of you is the runner?”

“The what?”

The lead man turned his muzzle toward Gerrin. “You know what I mean, captain. The runner – the guy who moves things around from place to place”.

Gerrin looked around the cargo bay. ”I don’t know of any ‘runner’ on my ship. We’ve got a shepherd and a registered companion and a couple of ex-soldiers, that’s about it”.

The four men sent up the ladder returned then, dragging Shayla Inabran between them, in her bedclothes and protesting loudly.

The lead man turned back to Gerrin. “And what about her?”

Gerrin looked at the descending party. “Well, that’s the companion. She’s yours, if you want her”.

“This is intolerable!” Inabran snapped at the cargo bay in general as she descended the ladder. “I demand you get this ship in the air at once! I have a very important appointment to keep, not that you people would understand THAT!”

The lead man turned his weapon toward her. “You need to shut your mouth, right now”.

Inabran was outraged. “Just who do you think-“

Bizui (Shut up)!” the lead man and Gerrin snapped in unison.

“Gentlemen,” McGarrity stepped forward. ”I think we can resolve this without any undue violence”.

The pirate guarding Aldous and McGarrity turned his weapon toward McGarrity. “No one asked you, shepherd”, the man growled.

“Give it up, Shepherd”, Aldous jumped in. “Scroungers like these like undue violence”.

The pirate turned and rammed the butt of his rifle into Aldous’s stomach. Aldous doubled over in pain. The rest of the crew tried to move toward him, but the guards blocked them. “What, you throwing words at me now, boy?” the attacker demanded.

Despite his pain, Aldous glared up at the man. “Why? You need help with the big ones?”

The guard turned his muzzle toward Aldous. “Cerrado (enough)!” his boss snapped. “We get the package first!” Turning back to Gerrin, the leader ordered “Now, give us the runner, or you get to watch us have some fun with your lady friends, here”.

Gerrin started to protest, but Inabran cut him off. “Why are you talking to HIM?” she demanded. Pointing at Ammon, she declared “HE’s the courier”.

Gerrin fought to keep from rolling his eyes in frustration. “AAhhhhhh” The leader mused. “So THIS is the man we want”. Turning toward Ammon, the leader continued “You have something some of our friends would like.” Stretching out his left hand, he said “Give it to me now”.

Ammon shrugged “I don’t have it on me”.

“Then where is it?”

“I hid it in a drawer in my room”.

Gerrin interrupted “I think you’d better go get the man what he wants, son”.

The leader smiled. “No, señor, we’ll get it for you. Which room is it?”

Ammon sighed “Top of the ladder, third door up the passageway”.

Turning to his men he shouted “Buscar su cuarto y cuando la encuentre, que a mí me (search his room and when you find it, bring it to me)”. The original four men scurried up the ladder.

The leader and the remaining three men sat the Troll’s crew and passengers on the deck. Gerrin, sitting between Anna and Aldous, murmured under his breath “Anyone make out that language?”

“It’s Spanish”, Anna replied in a low voice.


Anna nodded.

“Didn’t think anyone spoke that any more”.

Anna leaned slightly toward Gerrin. “What? You really thought that English, Chinese and Russian were the only languages left from Earth-That-Was?”

“Didn’t know”, Gerrin shrugged. “How do you know it?”

Anna replied “Before I was a Howard, my name was Trujillo.”


“That means she speaks Spanish”, one of the pirates bent down into Gerrin’s face. “Now shut up, both of you”.

Several minutes passed in silence before the four scavengers came back down the ladder. “We can’t find it, boss”, one of the pirates said.

“What do you mean, you can’t find it?”

“We looked everywhere”, the man protested.

The leader walked over to Ammon and pulled him to his feet. “I don’t like games”, he growled in Ammon’s face. “Now, you will go with my men and show them exactly where you hid it”. He pushed Ammon toward the ladder.

“Wait a minute”, Gerrin spoke up. “If he put it some place he wasn’t supposed to, it could be stuck in the drainage system or something. What drawer, exactly, did you put it in?”

“Well, it looked like an ordinary drawer”.

“Ordinary drawer?” Gerrin looked skeptical. “I think you’d better take me and show me”.

The leader looked from Ammon to Gerrin. “If you try anything”, he said slowly, “if you play any games or try any tricks, you’ll get to watch two of your people die slowly. And if we choose to kill the women, we’ll have a little fun with them, first”.

“I’ve played straight with you”, Gerrin stared the man down. “Whatever you’re after, you can have it and good riddance, just let us be on our way”.

“We can decide for ourselves what we’ll take. Now, go get us that package”. The leader shoved Gerrin toward the ladder, motioning Ammon upward.

Gerrin, Ammon, the leader and three guards climbed the ladder to the crew deck in silence. Moving forward through the mess deck they came to the compartment Ammon was sharing with the Shepherd. Gerrin entered, followed by Ammon and the pirate leader. The two guards waited by the door. They looked around the room, a small compartment with just enough room for two fold-up cots, two storage cabinets and a standup sink/toilet cabinet. Clothes and toiletries were strewn over the beds and cabinets. The leader of the pirates turned to Ammon and said “All right, where’d you put it?”

Ammon looked from the leader to Gerrin. Gerrin shifted his eyes toward a small bronze-colored cabinet door on the outer bulkhead. Ammon caught the hint. “That cabinet” he said, pointing to the door.

Gerrin feigned shock. “That one?”

Ammon nodded.

“That’s not a cabinet, genius, that’s the garbage chute!” Gerrin shouted. “Didn’t you wonder why it didn’t have a bottom, or did that escape your notice?!”

“I didn’t know!” Ammon protested.

The leader of the pirate band stepped between them. “Do you really expect me to believe that?” he stared at Gerrin.

“Talk to him!” Gerrin growled, pointing toward Ammon. “Hell, you can shoot him, if you like”.

Closing his eyes the leader grumbled “How did you idiots even make it into space?” Turning toward Ammon, he demanded “When did you dump it?”

Right after we hit atmo”, Ammon answered.

“Then you can help find it for us. ‘Bamos!” Waving his hand toward the door, he turned and headed back toward the cargo bay. The guards led Gerrin and Ammon back to the cargo bay. As they reached the ladder, the leader called to his men “Boys, our runner here dropped the package in the garbage chute. Get the pilot to the bridge and the engineer to the engine room. We’re going to where they first entered atmo”.

“What good will that do?” one of his men asked.

“When we get there, this crew is going to find that package for us”.

That’s right, Gerrin thought to himself. Keep giving me more time to think.

- - - - - 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?”