BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

MIKEBROOME

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 2)
Tuesday, October 27, 2015

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…


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2230    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“He’s late”.

Gerrin glanced at the worn set of clocks on the wall over one of the bartering stands. “It happens sometimes”, he commented as he and Wilkins nursed the drinks they had ordered to hold on to their table.

“Often?”

Gerrin glanced around. “More than I’d like, but not enough to be a problem”. Returning to his drink, he decided to change the subject. “By the way, anyone see Doc this morning?”

“Yeah, she was up and around”.

“How was she?”

Wilkins looked at him carefully. “’Bout the same as I could tell. Why?”

“She seems to be spending a lot of time around the still this trip out, that’s all”.

“Well”, Wilkins mused, “that last job kinda shook something up in her”.

“I’ve noticed”, Gerrin nodded. “She say anything about it?”

“Not to me”, Wilkins shook her head. “She gets snappy if anyone pushes it”.

Gerrin considered this for a second. “Keep an eye on her. This could get unsavory”.

Wilkins looked at him. “PTSD?”

“You never know”, Gerrin surmised. Running out of conversation, they turned their attention back to the worn screen in front of them and a broadcast of what looked like a second-run comedy about a rich family living on one of the core planets.

Forty five minutes had passed when Gerrin turned toward the clocks above the one stand and announced “This has gone too long. Something’s not right”. Pulling out his comlink, he called “Loomie, you there?”

Loomie’s voice answered after a short delay. “Right here, cap’n. What’s up?”

“Have you heard anything from Reilly?”

Loomie sounded almost bored. “No, we’ve been getting cargo unloaded. Why?”

Gerrin exhaled. “He hasn’t checked in yet”.

“He say he would?”

“Yeah”.

After a pause Loomie mused “That’s not like him”.

“Ya think?” was Gerrin’s annoyed response. “Keep an ear open, we’re going to have a look around here”.

“Be careful”. Loomie sounded concerned.

“That’s the plan”. Gerrin switched of his comlink and downed the last of his drink. “Let’s go find him”.

“Where?”

Gerrin looked around the smoky gathering area. “Where’d those three party girls go?”

Wilkins turned in the other direction, scanning through the haze toward the crowds positioned in front of the other bar and adjoining stands. “Didn’t see ‘em”, she admitted, adding “They seemed a bit more interested in Lewis, though, dontcha think?”

“Never know”, Gerrin threw back as he turned and started through the thin haze of smoke toward the dim passageway at the end of the open space, with Wilkins falling in behind him.

.

Reilly’s eyes slowly opened. Blackness was all he could see. He tried to move his hands: bound. He pulled his hands upward to where he could feel his face: no blindfold, that was good. Carefully, he reached slowly forward with both hands until he felt something solid: a wall. Swinging his arms slowly towards the side, he soon encountered another wall. He sat still, listening: no sound at all. Yeah, he thought to himself, this is going well…

.

Gerrin and Wilkins squinted slightly as they stepped through the passenger door of the Troll into the brighter light of the cargo bay as Aldous walked up to meet them. “No joy, eh?”

“Nothing”, Gerrin answered as Wilkins pulled the door shut behind them.

“He probably found him a date is all”

Wilkins looked from Gerrin to Aldous. “Wouldn’t he-a said something?”

“Let him stay out”, Aldous commented indifferently. “Enjoy the peace and quiet”.

Gerrin’s gaze became reproachful. “You two fighting again?”

“You ever tried to teach him how to watch a running engine?” Aldous asked tersely.

“He has his own special talents”, Gerrin reminded him.

“Yeah, and one of ‘em’s making more work for the rest of us”.

“He’s said similar things about you”.

Aldous stiffened. “What’d he say?”

“Never you mind” Gerrin’s chided firmly. “You two need to figure out how to get along. Work it out”.

“Good luck with that”, Aldous grumped. “What’s the plan?”

Gerrin looked toward the cargo bay ladder. “Round up Park, then you go with Wilkins, I go with Park. You check out one half of the station, we’ll check the other. Ask around if anyone’s seen him. If they have, call us and we’ll all go get him”. Gerrin picked up a handset from its cradle on the bulkhead. “Doc, you up there?”

Several seconds passed before Doc answered “Right where I’ve been all day”. Her words were slurred.

Gerrin continued “We might be bringing Reilly back a little scuffed up. You fit to work?”

“Shiny”, Doc slurred.

Gerrin paused before turning away from the others and stating more quietly but no less firmly “If there’s something you need to relieve yourself of, we can have a talk when we get back, but just in case things go south, I need you on your game”. He paused before asking sternly “Are you?”

Doc replied drowsily “Just do the job, I’ll be here”.

Gerrin skipped a beat. “Right”, he finished skeptically. Releasing the “talk” button on the handset he pushed another button on the small console under the cradle. “Loomie?”

“Yeah, cap’n?”

“You and Anna keep an eye on Doc, see if you can get her sobered up. The rest of us’re going after Reilly”.

Loomie hesitated. “We’ll try”, she said doubtfully. “Can’t promise much”.

“Do you best”. Gerrin seated the handset in its cradle as Park came down the ladder. ”Let’s go, people”, Gerrin announced, “we got a thief to find”.

.

Twenty minutes later Aldous and Wilkins found themselves in an open market slightly smaller and smokier but also brighter than the one she and Gerrin had left behind an hour ago. Several bright lights illuminated four cramped stands in front of the dingy white walls of the large compartment: one was a food stand of some sort with a sign advertising “Good Meat!” in English and Chinese, another appeared to be a small bar. The last two apparently were some sort of bartering stations for the public to trade things of any value. Aldous and Wilkins stood in the center of the space.

Wilkins stared at the sign as she pondered “Wonder what kind of meat?”

Aldous followed her gaze, commenting “I think the less you know, the better”.

“Smells a bit like the engine room in here”, she remarked objectively.

Aldous looked around. “No way my engineroom would be this tatty”, he refuted. “You’d think people would have more pride”.

“You see anything that might catch Reilly’s eye?”

Aldous shifted his gaze toward what looked like a small improvised bar. “He might know something”, he nodded toward the bartender.

“Let’s-“ Wilkins whirled suddenly, grabbing something behind her. Aldous started “What the-“ as Wilkins turned back toward him, pulling a young boy in filthy rags around between her and Aldous. “You lose somethin’, boy?” she growled. “Ain’t nothin’ in my pocket that’s yours”.

The boy squirmed. “Was just an accident”, he protested. “Didn’t mean to bump ya”.

“Did your hand mean to bump the inside of my pocket?” she demanded, holding out her other hand. “Give it over”.

The boy held up his free hand. “I got nothin’”.

Wilkins grunted. “You oughta be ashamed of yourself, stealin’ n’ lyin’ like that”. She held out her hand again. “Now, give it back”.

“HELP!” the boy suddenly screamed. “This kwong-juh duh (crazy) spacer lady wants me to do some nasty to her!”

Wilkins’ face registered shock for less than a second as several heads turned their way. “People”, she announced, “seems we got us a thief here. Everybody might want to check their pockets and see what’s missing. I’ll hold him”.

The boy’s face lost a significant amount of its color. “Whatcha do that for?” he whispered. “Weren’t nothin’ important I took”.

“You shouldn’t have took it at all”, she admonished. “Now, you gonna hand it over or do I give you to them?”

Defeat set in on the boy’s face. Reaching in to his own pockets, he guiltily produced several items, including a small field multi-tool which Wilkins grabbed and returned to her pocket. Looking him squarely in the eye, she commanded “Now go and give the rest of this stuff back to the people you took it from and apologize. I’ll be watching. Once you’re done, go home to your mama and apologize for disrespecting her like this”. She released the boy, who immediately sprang for the nearest passageway. Wilkins, twice as quick, lunged and grabbed him by the sleeve again and commanded in her deadliest voice “Now, dong-ma?”

The boy held up his hands and groaned “Okay”, and turned toward the gathering crowd slowly and fearfully. Wilkins turned back to Aldous, who had watched her curiously. “What’s so special about that pocket tool?” he asked.

“It’s got sentimental value”, she answered curtly. “You want to talk to the bartender while I keep an eye on the kid?”.

Aldous nodded “Sounds like a plan”, as they both slowly maneuvered toward the bar.

.

Gerrin and Park moved among the stands in yet another open area. This one was favored by the dockworkers since it was set up within spitting distance of one of the three elevators. Two bars were set up on either side, each populated by the offcoming shift.

They approached one bar and gestured toward the bartender. Gerrin held up a tiny pad displaying an image of Reilly. “Seen this guy?”

“Seen a lot of guys”, the bartender grunted, turning toward one of the stills along the wall.

Gerrin pulled at the man’s sleeve as he turned. “We want this one”.

The bartender continued to fill a glass jar from one still. “I supply some small relief from guys’ hurts. Don’t know what they are, don’t much care. This is a business. Now, you buyin’ or what?”

Gerrin stared at him. “Maybe later”, he turned and stepped away from the bar.

Park followed him. “So, where do we start if no one’s seen him?”

Gerrin looked around: most of the inhabitants of the open bazaar appeared to be common civilians. No one looked like they worked for a local gangster. “Keep asking”, he commented, adding “By the way, you might want to watch your pockets”.

Before Park could respond, Gerrin darted forward and grabbed at something beside Park. Park felt something jerk the back of his pants. He turned quickly to see Gerrin holding a young boy in tattered clothing by the sleeve. The boy’s hand hovered over Park’s rear pocket. “Hey!” Park blurted.

“Not so fast, kid”, Gerrin commanded.

The kid squirmed. “Lemme go! I ain’t done nothin’!”

“Sure you haven’t”, Gerrin drawled sarcastically. “You’re just looking to warm your hand, right?”

“It just slipped”, the kid protested defensively.

“Yeah, well, slip it into your own pockets and keep it there”, Park snapped.

“It’s just business”, the kid whined. “People gotta eat, y’know?”

"Ai-yah, Tyen-ah (Oh God . . .)”, Park groaned, “he sounds like a miniature Reilly”.

“I don’t know no ‘Reilly’”, the kid stammered, “I only work with me an’ mine”.

Gerrin stood there, thoughtful. Suddenly, he reached into his pocket with his free hand and pulled out the mini pad, positioning it in front of the kid’s face. “That’s Reilly”, he stated flatly. “Seen him?”

The kid cocked his head as he looked at the pad. “Don’t know”, he mused. “Been a busy day, memory’s kinda fuzzy. Might help if I had, say…” he studied Gerrin’s face for a second “…ten credits”.

Park grabbed the kid by the other sleeve and twisted him toward him. “How about you tell us what we want to know and we don’t beat the gos-se out of you?” he demanded, not too convincingly.

“Wouldn’t get ya nothin’”, the kid responded cockily. “And some people round here don’t like guys who beat up on kids. Might even beat you up”.

Park’s eyes shifted to Gerrin who, unamused, reached into his pocket and produced ten-credit note, which he handed to the kid as Park let him go. “Now”, Gerrin continued darkly, “where’s my man?”

Satisfied, the kid slipped the note into his pocket. “I seen him”, he admitted.

“Where?”

“Him and two other guys were by the elevator. They were holding him. He looked sick”.

“What two guys?”

“They work for Jacko”.

“Who’s ‘Jacko’?” Park demanded.

The kid’s gaze shifted between Gerrin and Park. “Jacko gets things, things people need but can’t find”.

“And where do we find this ‘Jacko’?” Gerrin asked sternly.

The boy pointed toward a passageway opposite the one Gerrin and Park entered through. “Go down that way. The door with a bunch of guards on it, that’s him”.

Satisfied for now, Gerrin nodded. “Good enough. Now get on home, someone’s probably waiting for you”.

The kid grinned. “Pleasure doin’ business with you” he called back as he turned to leave.

Gerrin watched him go as he pulled a comlink from his pocket and announced into it “Aldous, bring Wilkins and get to the zocalo on the other side of the station. I think we’ve found him”.

.

Despite the pitch-blackness of his holding cell Reilly had managed to slowly work his hands free. His hands hurt from contracting his thumbs into the palms of his hands and pulling at his bindings, but it had worked. Now he felt slowly along the walls of his cell, feeling for anything that might indicate access to the universe outside.

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, he thought, this could be a problem…

.

.

.

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

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