Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 6)
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Both ships were close enough to be clearly seen in the pilot’s window. “Might be a good time to turn”, Reilly commented nervously.


A still desert stretched out to the horizon in every direction, garnished only by rocky hills and scrub brush in broken patches. In the beige-tinged blue sky the red dwarf-sun Heinlein crept toward the horizon as the main sun, Motherlode, peeked above the other side.

The empty silence was shattered as three ships, a medium-sized transport and two different fighter craft, streaked through the empty sky, disappearing almost as fast as they had appeared.

In the cockpit of the fleeing transport, Gerrin stabbed at a button on the console. “Loomie, where you at?” he demanded.

“Streaking toward you right now, cap’n, we’ll be there in thirty seconds”, Loomie answered.

“Move it, we got bogies”.

“You got what?

“Just get here”. Gerrin snapped as he stabbed at the button for the comlink. He turned his eyes toward the rear-view display: one Arrowhead and one Foxbat were still behind them, firing sporadically. Gerrin twisted the wheel and threw the Komodo into a roll. The pursuing ships matched the maneuver. This is getting more interesting than I like, Gerrin thought to himself, yanking the control stick to the side to avoid a rapidly approaching rock formation.

As the Troll streaked through the sky toward their retreating comrades Loomie grabbed at the handset for the intercom. “Everybody! We’re twenty seconds from trouble! I need someone who can shoot on the guns!”

“I’ll handle it”, Anna’s voice responded.

“Can you?”

Loomie heard Anna pause. “Sure”, she finally answered, partly for herself. “It’s just a different kind of gun”.

Switching off the comm, Loomie murmured “Yeah. Just a different kind of gun”. She could picture Anna nervously trying to learn the gun controls. "RUNtse de FWOtzoo, ching baoYO wuomun... (Oh merciful Buddha protect us...)", she whispered.

Back on their stolen Komodo Gerrin swerved all over the sky to keep the pursuing ships from getting a lock on them. Reznor’s two remaining fighters pursued stubbornly, firing off short bursts of machine gun fire each time the stolen transport veered into their line of fire.

Gerrin swore under his breath as he threw the transport into a barrel roll to avoid an incoming stream of fire from the Foxbat. Close behind the Arrowhead maneuvered for a shot of its own. Gerrin’s hands tensed on the controls as the two fighters crept slowly closer. “This is getting a bit more interesting than I’d like”, Reilly panted from the co-pilot’s seat.

Suddenly, in the rear-view monitor, the Nordic Troll dropped between them and their pursuers, only meters from the Foxbat’s nose.

“’Bout time”, Gerrin grunted as he pulled the Komodo up to avoid and approaching ridge.

The Foxbat, caught in the jetwash of the Troll’s atmospheric engines, careened wildly and dropped back to regain control, nearly hitting the Arrowhead as it fell behind. The Arrowhead swerved downward to the right, narrowly avoiding the Foxbat as it passed. Resuming its pursuit course, the Arrowhead spat streaks of fire from its nose toward the intruder.

In the aft gun pod on board the Troll, Anna sat behind the tail guns, grasping the trigger and waiting for the pursuing enemy to offer a clean shot: the LED readout on the panel between the two big guns told her she was low on ammo, so every shot had to count. She waited a few more seconds . . . THERE. Jerking her finger on the trigger, she fired several short bursts at the attacking craft.

Short streaks of fire flew from the Troll’s tail toward the charging Arrowhead, striking along the body of the ship. A pale plume of smoke began to trail from the ship as it began to drop back, sinking slowly toward the ground. The Foxbat lurched forward to take its place.

In the aft gun pod, Anna watched as the Foxbat quickly flew into range, fire spitting from its wings. As it positioned itself in the proper position Anna squeezed the trigger: nothing happened. Dread growing on her face, she squeezed again: still nothing. Her eyes darted to the ammunition counter: empty. Grabbing at the ear of her headset, she called worriedly “Loomie, I think we have a problem”.

“What’s wrong?”

“No more ammo”.

Gos-se!” Loomie hissed. Yanking a switch on the comm panel, she cried “Cap’n, we’re out of ammo!”

“Improvise”, Gerrin shot back.


“Sit on him, dance with him, promise him favors, I don’t care!” he snapped.

Loomie pulled back on the throttle slightly. The Troll fell back and swayed upward, the Foxbat moving forward beneath it. Once the enemy craft was amost directly beneath them, Loomie pushed the stick forward and the Troll drifted downward. The Foxbat instinctively dropped down toward the ground. Loomie didn’t let up: she edged the Troll closer to the Foxbat. The Foxbat dropped back, trying to get out from under the Troll. Loomie dropped back as well, matching the maneuver. When the Foxbat tried to veer to the right, the Troll veered with it. The Foxbat continued the turn, the Troll staying with its every move.

Loomie pushed hard to keep ahead of the smaller fighter as the retreating transport pulled further away. “Nick, I can’t hold him!” she called desperately over the comlink.

At first she got no answer. “Is he firing?” Gerrin’s voice finally shot back.

Loomie paused a beat, glancing at the rear-view monitor. “No”.

On the Komodo Gerrin glanced at his fuel gage: maybe just enough. Grabbing at his headset he called out “How you feel about a round of chicken?”

Loomie sounded shocked. “You really want to try that now?

“You said yourself he’s not shooting. That means he’s out of ammo. With the little I got, we might be able to scare him off!”

Loomie paused for several seconds. “Loomie?”

Finally she responded worriedly “Your call, cap’n”.

“Push him toward me”. Gerrin ordered.

“Right”, Reilly interrupted, “’cause suicide’s always a hoot”.

Bizui”, Gerrin snapped, pulling the stick around and bringing the Komodo into a banking turn back toward the two dueling flies in his rear monitor.

Loomie pulled the Troll upward to allow the Foxbat to pass. The fighter soared beneath her toward the Komodo, now charging directly toward them.

Gerrin’s eyes were locked on the rapidly approaching fighter and the Troll behind it. “He’s getting kinda close”, Reilly murmured.

Gerrin ignored him, concentrating on the approaching ships. The Foxbat continued to close, with the Troll directly behind it.

Both ships were close enough to be clearly seen in the pilot’s window. “Might be a good time to turn”, Reilly commented nervously.

Gerrin watched intently as the Foxbat soared rapidly toward the cockpit window. They were scant seconds from collision.


Gerrin broke hard to the left, missing the incoming fighter by a meter at most. The Troll soared by close beneath him, but at a safer distance. The Foxbat, rolling wildly, straightened out and continued to flee toward the rising mountains and the dwarf sun barely visible behind them. The Komodo and the Troll pursued until the Foxbat disappeared behind the jagged hills, Gerrin popping off a short burst with the guns every few seconds.

Gerrin pulled his stolen transport into a turn. “You have him on scope?”

“Wait one”, Loomie answered. Seconds later she announced “Still running . . . He’s gone”.

“Okay, we’re done here. Back to town. Good job, Loomie”

“Always”, Loomie chirped cheerfully over the circuit.

Gerrin sank back into the pilot’s seat. “Well . . .” he sighed.

Reilly slumped in the co-pilot’s seat, finishing for Gerrin “That went really well. . . “

Gerrin looked at him for a second, nodding “Right”.




Several hours later, the Troll had picked up her crew and returned to space. Setting the stolen transport down outside the town they’d first arrived in, Gerrin had his two junior crewmen help Aldous remove the parts he needed for the Troll and transfer them to the ship. Gerrin had ventured into town to keep his agreement with the informant, but the informant was nowhere to be found, so Gerrin returned to the ship and lifted off.

Reilly, exhausted from his ordeal, was nonetheless shepherded to med bay, where a slightly less than sober Doc examined him and sent him on his way.

Before retiring to his bunk, Reilly wanted to have a word with Gerrin. As Reilly started up the cockpit ladder he could hear Gerrin talking with Anna. “…besides, the kids are doing just fine, haven’t poisoned anyone yet”, Anna was saying.

“Well, in that case, I’d appreciate it if you all save me some, I just might take a chance on it”, Gerrin replied.

“I can have someone bring you some, if you like”, she offered.

“No, Loomie’s already offered to relieve me long enough to eat”.

Anna shrugged. “Well, then, I guess I’ll see you at dinner”. She rose from the co-pilot’s seat and started for the hatchway, meeting Reilly as he reached the top of the ladder. “You good?” she asked.

“Well enough”, he replied. “Thanks”.

Anna patted him on the shoulder as she passed and Reilly moved somewhat slowly forward, grasping the back of the co-pilot’s seat. Gerrin noticed him out of the corner of his eye. “What’d Doc say?” he asked.

“Keep drinking water, take two aspirins and call her in the morning”, Reilly answered dismissively.

“That’s it?”

“Well, she sounded like she’d had a couple when she said it . . . “. Sinking into the co-pilot’s seat he continued “besides, you all didn’t save me a rat meat roll”.

Gerrin gave him a sideways glance as Reilly changed the subject. “Where we off to now?”

“Remember that Shepherd we had on here a couple months back? McGarrity?”

“Yeah, what about him?”

“He’s not far from here and I just waved him. He says we can set down there for a time, maybe take some downtime, do some odd jobs, get out in the world for awhile”.

Reilly gave him a sideways glance. “You need a break?”

“No, but these last few exciting weeks have tapped the purse”. Turning toward Reilly, Gerrin continued “By the way, what was that booby-trap?”

“Simple. I got with Lewis on the vidlink, he helped us hack the comms, and we left ‘em a message that keyed the commlink carrier at the end, and that juiced the wires that set off your bombs, and they set off the fuel tanks. No problem”.

Gerrin smirked “And you gripe about my plans”.

“That was a plan?” Reilly snorted scornfully. “Just charge in there and spring me? I think you all have a problem with your brains being missing”. Reilly shook his head as he turned to face Gerrin. “Fong luh (Crazy), all of you”, he continued reproachfully. “Just gonna storm in and take me back, huh? Stupid”. After a beat he added “Noble and appreciated, but stupid”.

Gerrin snorted a laugh. “What?” Reilly demanded.

Smirking, Gerrin answered “You’re starting to sound like me”.

“Don’t be insulting”, Reilly scoffed.

“Listen to you”, Gerrin smirked. “You’re more worried about us than yourself”.

Reilly eyed Gerrin. “Constant exposure causes contamination”, he finally responded.

Gerrin continued to smirk. “So – what? I might start talking like a thief soon?”

“Doubtful. You’re too much of a citizen to make a good crook”.

Gerrin’s smirk faded. “I used to be”, he replied grimly. “Not any more”.

“Hah”, Reilly scoffed. “How ‘bout how you took charge back in that town? That’s a citizen. You were loving being back in charge of things”.

“I was doing what I had to to get us out of there alive”, Gerrin retorted harshly. “You forget how we first met? How I got there?”

“I know”, Reilly’s tone softened slightly, “you got humped, no doubt about it, but you are what you are: a citizen. A gooder who wants to belong to a bigger better something else”. In a more serious tone he added “It might behoove you to learn to be a little more selfish”.

“Whatever”, Gerrin grunted, turning back toward the pilot’s console. “What about that other thing?”

Reilly shook his head. “No, if you’ve honked off Jacko, best not to go back. Besides, the people who’d do it are most likely gone to ground now”.

Gerrin sighed “Always something”.

“We’re still flying, ain’t we?”

“Yeah…so far…”

Reilly turned to stare out the cockpit windows. “That was still a dumb thing to do back there”, he threw in after a few seconds.

Gerrin gazed out the windows as well. “You’re welcome”.




. . . . . . . . The End (for now) . . .



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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?”