Tales From the Nordic Troll - #7: Strange Bedfellows (part 3).
Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gerrin stood there, weighing his options. He could take his ship and run, surely, as any sane captain probably would, except that he had never embraced the concept of turning tail and leaving another man to fend for himself while he, Gerrin, ran for safety. - Screw it -, he finally decided, - we’re already in it halfway up the leg -


“Aldous!” “Aldous, wake up!”

Reilly knelt in the middle of the debris-cluttered office, slapping an unconscious Aldous lightly on the face as Park stood by the freshly-cracked window watching for trouble. “Come on, Aldous! This ain’t the time for this!”

“I’ll go get Doc”, Park offered, starting for the door.

“Wait!” Reilly commanded, turning back to Aldous. “Come on, Aldous!”

Aldous groaned and stirred. “That’s it, come on back”, Reilly encouraged.

Aldous slowly opened his eyes. “Do you know where you are?” Reilly quizzed him.

Aldous turned his head, looking around at the fragments of ceiling and beam on the floor until his eyes returned to Reilly. “Clearly ain’t heaven”, he murmured.

“So far, so good”, Reilly snorted sarcastically, holding up one hand. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

Aldous squinted. “Seventeen”.

“Yeah, you’re fine”. Reilly stood up, brushing his hands on his pants.

Aldous winced as he slowly propped himself up on his elbows. “What happened?” he asked.

“That last explosion got part of the roof and it collapsed in on us”, Park answered. “I came back here when I heard the first shots. That’s when we got hit and I had to get you out of the way when the ceiling fell in”.

“He saved you fife”, Reilly added, gesturing toward Park. “You came that close to becoming a splat on the floor”.

“Thanks”, Aldous offered his hand to Park, who gently pulled him to his feet. Aldous looked from the fractured beam hanging to the floor to the gaping hole in the ceiling. “What about the cargo?”

“I found it. Two bays down”, Park answered. “It’s safe and sound, we can move it whenever we’re ready”.

Aldous and Reilly looked at him, then each other. “I think we need to worry about whether or not we’re gonna get shot at, first”, Aldous opined, brushing himself off.

Reilly’s glance turned toward the window. “Well, whoever they are, they’re not attacking right now, are they?” Turning toward Aldous he asked “Ready to get back to work?”

“Don’t you want to see if it’s safe, first?” Aldous suggested.

“What part of our current job have you found safe, so far?” Reilly responded, turning toward the door. “You good?”

“Shiny”, Aldous replied.

“Good. Let’s go”.

- - - - - - - - -

“So, what’s your plan?”

Gerrin stood with the Alliance sergeant in front of the skiff as the sergeant’s squad and the Troll’s crew busied themselves with putting out resurging fires and tending to the wounded. Both crews had mostly been working independently of the other, with Gerrin’s crew assisting when asked, which wasn’t often. As both crews worked, several townspeople had emerged from damaged buildings and the alleys between them to see what was happening on the field.

The sergeant looked around the landing area and back toward the far ridge. “We need to call for help and hope it gets here soon”.

“And if it doesn’t?” Gerrin continued. “These guys have a strong will, twisted and misguided though it is, and they’re not gonna stop ‘till they get what they want”.

The sergeant looked at Gerrin. “Can your ship still fly?”

Gerrin nodded. “As far as I know”.

“Then you might want to get out of here, now”.

“And you?”

The sergeant sighed heavily. “We’ll stay here and hold the insurgents off as long as we can, until help arrives”.

“You think you can handle this by yourself?”

“We have our orders”, the sergeant shrugged, turning toward the skiff.

Gerrin stood there, weighing his options. He could take his ship and run, surely, as any sane captain probably would, except that he had never embraced the concept of turning tail and leaving another man to fend for himself while he, Gerrin, ran for safety. Screw it , he finally decided, we’re already in it halfway up the leg. Gerrin turned toward the sergeant’s retreating back. “Sergeant, I don’t run from a fight, especially when the only way out of the fire is straight through”.

The sergeant stopped at the skiff’s closed hatch. “You’ve done your part, captain”, he answered as he reached for the latch. “Go home”.

“My part’s just starting. Now…” Gerrin surveyed the adjacent buildings, most with broken windows, some with punctured walls. “You got any heavy armaments?”

The sergeant stepped slowly back from the hatchway, eying Gerrin carefully. “Two fifty cals, tripod mount, two grenade launchers, rifle mounted, with about thirty grenades. Why?”

“You’re gonna need the fifties up on the buildings - that one…” Gerrin pointed to a large flat-roofed building on the edge of the field with a gaping hole in the wall facing them, “…and that one”. He pointed to a tall building with one corner sheared off by an explosion. “Put the grenade launchers on the field, about halfway between the center and the ends, maybe…” he scanned the field “…there –“ he pointed to a low berm not far from the buildings “-and there.” Pointing toward a pile of rocks toward the outer edge of the field. “ Space the handhelds on the ground across the edge of the field”.

The sergeant continued to stare carefully. “You sound like you’ve done this before”.

Gerrin shrugged. “A time or two”.


Gerrin’s hesitation was barely noticeable. “During the war. Saw a few battles, not always pretty”.

The sergeant considered this for several seconds. Reaching to the side of his flak vest he pulled up a comlink. “Cockpit”, he announced crisply.

“Cockpit. Send it”, the reply came.

“Get on the horn and call Central Control, tell them we have a situation out here. We need at least two more squads for backup”.

“Comms are down, Sarge”, a voice came back. “Some of that incoming damaged the antenna, we got no way of calling out”.

The sergeant hissed through his teeth. “How long?”

“Estimate at least an hour before we can get it back up”.

“Get on it. Call me when you have a signal”. Switching off the comlink the sergeant turned to Gerrin. “I’ll need to borrow your comms”.

Gerrin barely hesitated before gesturing toward the Troll. “Right this way”, he turned and started toward his ship with the sergeant falling in behind him. Both men barely glanced at Doc, Wilkins, and the Alliance medic on the other side of the field, standing over a stretcher and arguing over where to move the wounded.

“I need them in the skiff so I can properly treat them”, the medic continued heatedly.

“No, we need them in one of the stronger buildings where it’s safe”, Doc objected.

“The skiff will be plenty safe”.

“The skiff is a conspicuous high-value target”.

“I think I can tell what’s best for my people” the medic stated stiffly. “I am a fully trained combat medic”.

“Wow!” Doc shot back. “So am I! Ain’t it great?”

The medic responded angrily “They’re going to the skiff until help arrives and that’s final!”

Naodai bei men jee le ma? (Did your head get slammed in a door?)”, Doc snapped. “That skiff’s the first thing they’ll aim for! You do NOT put helpless casualties inside a prime target!”

“Hey, hey, hey!” Wilkins broke in loudly. “Let’s everybody calm down for a minute here”. She turned to the medic. “How long you been doin’ this?”

“I’ve been in the field for ten months”, the medic huffed.

Wilkins responded “Well she’s been out in the black for years, and fought in the war before that”.

“On who’s side?” he retorted scornfully.

“Doesn’t matter”, she answered firmly. “Listen to her, she knows what she’s doing”. Wilkins turned and pulled Doc away from the confrontation as the Alliance medic stood by angrily. “You okay?” she asked in a lowered voice.

Doc sighed angrily “Just a little tired of Junior, there”.

“We’ll be done with Junior soon enough”, Wilkins reassured her. Turning toward the stretcher she added “Come on, we got patients to tend to”. Both women returned to the stretcher and bent down. Picking up the stretcher with Doc, Wilkins began backing toward the building Doc had intended as shelter. “Rang yee shia (Coming through)”, she announced to the medic standing in their way.

The medic stepped aside and started toward the skiff. “Shiaonongmin (Peasant)”, he grumbled.

Doc heard him. “Chunhou (Idiot)”, she growled in return.

- - - - - - - - -

“Loomie”, Gerrin called as he reached the top of the cockpit ladder, “how’s our vid-feed working?”

Loomie turned in the pilot’s seat and looked at him, puzzled. “Seems fine to me, cap’n”.

“Good. We’ve got company”, he announced as the sergeant reached the top of the ladder behind him. “This man needs to use our comms”.

“Okay”, she answered, still puzzled. “Anything in particular he wants to see?”

“I have to contact my base”, the sergeant answered. “My comms are down”.

“Just let him in there for a couple of minutes and we’ll be out of your way”, Gerrin added.

“Okay”. Loomie rose from the pilot’s seat and stepped toward the rear of the cockpit, her eyes on Gerrin. Gerrin glanced at the sergeant, who was lowering himself into the seat, and tilted his head toward the ladder. Loomie nodded. “If you boys got this, I’m going to take a rest call”. She started toward the ladder.

“Be my guest”, Gerrin replied, making sure the sergeant heard him.

The sergeant squared himself in the pilot’s chair and began adjusting the two-way video transceiver. Once he found the frequency he wanted, he picked up the handset and announced “Delta Two-Two-Niner, this is Foxtrot Three-Five. Delta Two-Two-Niner, this is Foxtrot Three-Five. Request assistance at drop zone. Three down, five injured. Repeat, three down, five injured. Civilians involved. Request backup”.

The image of an Alliance soldier appeared on the screen seconds later. The image was clouded with snowy interference and froze every few seconds but the voice was still intelligible above the crackling of static. “Foxtrot Three-Five, this is Delta Two-Two-Niner. Copy three down, five injured. Negative on reinforcement, all units engaged at present. Responding to multiple incidents. Hold out as best you can, evac if necessary. Good luck”.

The sergeant sighed. “Copy hold out, will do best. One last thing”.

“Go ahead, Three-Five”.

“Request download to this station data on transport Nordic Troll and captain”.

“Copy, Three-Five, stand by for download”.

The sergeant slipped back in the chair and turned toward Gerrin. “Nothing personal, captain, I just want to verify who I’m dealing with”.

Gerrin nodded. “Understandable”.

Several seconds passed before the screen flashed and a data feed appeared on the screen. The sheet. The “sheet” was divided into three sections; the top box bore the markings of an official government data feed, while the left side beneath it contained a capture picture of Gerrin, doctored slightly to make him appear several years younger. The third box, the information box, read:

Nordic Troll. Converted military transport, commercial use. Registry: Georgia System. Captain: Gerrin, Nicolas, Pilot certification number 117264-17B. Former gunnery sergeant, 12th Battalion, 3rd Airborne Regiment, Army of the Interstellar Alliance, retired. Eight combat commendations, five campaign awards. No criminal record.

Gerrin leaned over to peer at the accompanying picture. It was him, but he looked a little like a store mannequin. Obviously Reilly and Lewis were better at doctoring data files than they were at image files.

The Howard’s berthing compartment consisted of one large room with a thin metal divider evenly bisecting the compartment. A break in the divider along one permanent bulkhead, slightly more than shoulder-wide, allowed transit from one side to the other. Lewis Howard sat on a stool at a makeshift terminal on his side monitoring the counterfeit feed he’d piped in to the cockpit monitor. Anna and Loomie sat watching on the bed behind him.

“Think he’s buying it?” Loomie asked nervously.

“He should be”, Anna replied. “Lewis and Jamie spent enough time on this thing”.

“Yeah”, Lewis commented, “well, jacking a feed is easy: we were lucky the signal was so dirty, that’ll cover up for any small flaws we might have missed. The hard part’s gonna be passing this thing around the cortex”.

Anna stood and reached for her son. “You’ll figure it out”, she said, rubbing his shoulders. “You’ve always been good with computers”.

Loomie looked at the other woman. “I thought you didn’t approve of this kind of thing?”

Anna shrugged. “I’m still not entirely okay with it, but I’ve kept an eye on the two of them. Besides”, she added, “I don’t want to see Nick go back to prison”.

“Me neither”. Loomie stood and started toward the door. “I’d better get back up there”.

In the cockpit, the sergeant leaned back against the backrest, lost in his own thoughts. He stared out the window at his squad and the Troll’s crew moving about the landing field, carrying the wounded to the makeshift aid station and piling debris into what makeshift fortifications they could fashion on the edge of the field. Mostly the two groups still worked separately. The townspeople milled about, not knowing what to do. Finally he said “I can use all the help I can get, gunney”.

Gerrin nodded. “Let’s get to work, then”. He turned toward the ladder as Loomie appeared from below the deck. “We good?” she asked.

“Good as we’ll get”, Gerrin replied. “Stay with the ship, we’ll be outside”.

“Fine”, Loomie groused.

“I might need you to do another flyover”, he said firmly. “Be ready”.

Loomie’s attitude disappeared. “Roger that”.

Gerrin looked over his shoulder at the sergeant, who was now standing behind him. “Let’s go”.

“Oh”, Loomie exclaimed lightly. “One thing, though”.

Gerrin looked from her to the sergeant. “Mess deck’s directly aft. I’ll be there in a minute”.

The sergeant looked at the two of them. “Okay”, he said, and started down the ladder.

Loomie waited until the man was out of her line of sight. “He bought it?” she murmured in a low voice.

Gerrin glanced in the direction of the mess deck. “Looks like”, he remarked, his voice no louder than hers.

“Hmmm...” She turned toward him. “Sergeant?” she raised an eyebrow. “Kind of a low rank, ain’t it?”

Gerrin looked at her. “An officer’s rank could’ve drawn too much attention”.

“Okay”, Loomie nodded, “What’re we doing, ‘sarge’?”

“For right now, keeping our asses alive”.


……….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?”