Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 3)
Monday, June 19, 2017

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”.


The three men guarding the gate dragged their prisoner across the dimly lit clearing toward the large man standing in front of the fire. “What’s this s’posed to be?” the man growled.

“Caught him sneakin’ up to the gate”, one of the captors answered as they stepped into the light.

The large man stepped up to the prisoner. “What’chyou doin’ creepin’ ‘round my gate, boy?” he demanded of the prisoner.

The rusty-haired prisoner looked up at him. “Someone down the road aways said y’all might have some work”, Reilly responded meekly.

The big man snorted “Maybe for those we seen ‘round here. Don’t recall your face out there”.

“I jus’ got in. Been wanderin’ for weeks, lookin’ for someplace needs help”.

The big man stepped up to Reilly, bringing his face to within inches of his would-be prisoner. “Yeah, an’ maybe ye’re here to spy for them half-ass farmers wantin’ that land”.

Reilly shook his head. “Don’ know nothin’ ‘bout no farmers, mister”, he protested as he looked around. “Jus’ thought that with all this prosperous activity you got here, you might be needin’ some extra hand, that’s all”.

The big man looked him over carefully before turning. “Bring him, boys”, he barked. “Let’s see what the boss says. You, back to the gate”.

Two of the men grabbed Reilly once more and herded him forward, deeper into the compound. As they pushed farther in, Reilly discreetly scanned the area, noting that all the inhabitants were rough-looking males. Some were cleaning firearms, a few stood in front of fires with animals hanging on a spit. Most glared at him as he passed. As they continued through the camp, he also noted the scarcity of women – the few he observed seemed to be performing servile functions - and the absence of children.

Along the way they passed a low wall, less than waist high, forming a circular pit. Around the pit several men were shouting and waving money at each other. As they got closer to the wall, Reilly could see two dogs inside the pit, locked in a fight to the death. Each was bleeding from wounds torn open in several places, growling savagely through the enemy’s fur embedded in its jaws. Reilly couldn’t guess how much longer either one would last.

They climbed the path up a long gradual slope through squat bushes and short trees until they reached a large, two-story wooden house, somewhat ornate considering their surroundings. Reilly noted the weather-beaten satellite dish pointed skyward on the left side, and the sizeable water tower on the right. Well, that’s not showy at all, he thought to himself.

As they climbed to the porch in front of a well-lit front door, two of the guards yanked Reilly. “You wait here”, one growled as they stopped.

Reilly and his two captors waited as the leader stepped through the door and closed it. Several seconds passed. “Any chance I might get to go pee?” Reilly asked innocently. One of his captors answered by smacking him in the back of the head.

Minutes later the door opened and a squat but burly man stepped out, followed by the leader. The burly man snorted as he eyed Reilly. “That him?”

The leader nodded. “Said he was lookin’ for work”.

The burly man grunted “He ain’t big enuff to be useful, an’ he might be workin’ for them ban ge naotsi (half-wit) farmers”.

“He said he ain’t”, one of Reilly’s captors responded.

“Hah!” The burly man huffed, “that’s why you guys ain’t in charge. Get rid of him”, the burly man jerked his hand to the side.

“Huh? I can be useful!” Reilly protested as the two guards holding him began to drag him away. “You’ll see!”

The two men holding Reilly, with the leader in front, herded him along a path behind the house. Reilly pretended to protest as he carefully surveyed the surrounding area: “I got skills!” he continued. “Good with numbers and everything!”

“Shut up!” one of the guards growled.

“Got some mechanical smarts, too!”

“Bizui!” the other snapped, smacking him in the head.

They stopped in front of a heavy wooden gate resembling a run-down version of the gate Reilly had come through earlier. The leader, holding a lantern in one hand, unlocked the gate and the other two dragged Reilly through it. On the other side of the gate Reilly could clearly hear rushing water: a river of some kind was close by. The leader waved them forward with the lamp. Reilly’s captors dragged him into the brush. As they entered the brush Reilly heard what sounded like a night bird: the signal that help had arrived.

Several steps into the brush Reilly felt a sharp tug at his left arm. Suddenly the guard on his left had disappeared. Seconds later he felt a similar tug at his right side. That guard was gone.

The leader, thrashing his way through the brush, continued onward as his two men disappeared one by one. Finally turning back, he stopped and looked around. “Gooch?” he called out. “Sprag? Where’d you get to?”

“I think they had to leave”, Reilly offered.

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.

“Getting’ 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”.

The leader’s head spun to the right just in time to catch Gerrin’s fist to his jaw. The leader stumbled backwards, but stayed on his feet. Gerrin dove at the man again, ramming his fist into the man’s right eye. The man went down, clutching at his eye. Gerrin followed with a blow to the man’s left temple. The blow knocked his opponent senseless. Gerrin stood up, brushed himself off and looked toward Reilly as Aldous and Park stepped up beside him. “You good to go?”

“Shiny”, Reilly nodded. “Good thing I still remembered that signal”. As he brushed himself off he continued “By the way, how’d you catch up to me so fast?”

“Simple”. Gerrin held up a small box which in the dim light of the dropped lantern looked like a jerry-rigged cross between a comlink and a compass. “I had Aldous take a tracker out of a dead comlink and put it in your boot heel after our last trip out. Nothing fancy, just direction and distance”.

"Shuh muh? (What?)"

Aldous chided “Well you did get kinda lost last time”.

Gerrin reached down and set the leader’s dropped lantern upright and continued “Just to keep an eye on you”.

“That’s insulting”, Reilly glared at both of them, “it’s like you don’t trust me”.

“You can shoot me later”. Gerrin returned to business. “You get a good look at the place?”

Reilly, still fuming, nodded. “Homemade militia, for the most part. Some medium weapons, but nothing heavy. Most of ‘em are just common bangers, nothing you could call a trained soldier”.

Gerrin nodded as he listened. “That means we might have a shot at a fair fight”.

“So we taking this?” Park asked.

“That’s what we’re gonna talk about”.

“Well, whatever we’re gonna do”, Reilly surmised, “we’d better do it fast, ‘cause now they know something’s coming”.

“Right”, Gerrin decided. “Grab our other two friends back there and let’s get them dressed up”.

“Huh?” Park didn’t get it.

“He means we’re gonna make this look like something besides what it is”, Aldous filled him in.

The four of them hauled the other two unconscious men out of the bushes and laid them out beside their boss in positons suggesting a scuffle between them. Once they were positioned properly, Aldous pulled a small bottle from in front of his pants and gently deposited some of the contents around the mouths of the three. Standing up he declared “There. Anyone not looking too close’ll think they had a couple and got in a fight”.

“And Reilly?” Park asked.

Aldous shrugged “Guess he got away”.

“Whah?” Park scoffed, “no one’s going to believe that”.

Gerrin chuckled “You’d be surprised, Park”. Picking up the lantern he turned the way they came and continued “Let’s get to this farm, now”. Gerrin started down the path leading from the clearing. “Horses are this way”.

Aldous, Park and Reilly turned to follow. As they fell in behind Gerrin Park asked Aldous “Have you guys done this before?”

Aldous nodded.

“And it worked?”

Reilly broke in “Just keep watching and learning, you’ll get it soon enough”. Turning to Aldous he growled “And you stay outta my boots from now on”.

“Stop getting yourself kidnapped”, Aldous rebounded.

“That’s not the point, Aldous”, Reilly griped as they left the clearing.

- - - - - - - - -

The main lodge in McGarrity’s town had two bunk rooms in the rear of the building, one for males, one for females. The crew of the Nordic Troll had been using these bunk rooms for several days in order to conserve life support power on the Troll.

Wilkins entered the female’s bunk room with a cup of coffee in her hand. “You up?” she asked softly.

A mop of short straw-colored hair rolled over to reveal a haggard face and two bleary brown eyes. “Mm fine”, Doc slurred.

“You don’t look it”, Wilkins rebuffed. “You look like you just came back from a night’s liberty in Beaumonde city”.

Doc glared at her as she sat up. “Don’ go there, Wilkins”, she managed. “You don’ know what you’re talkin’ about”.

Wilkins eyed her. “I know some times something horrific happens and stays with you”, she replied gently, “and if you don’t get some of it out sometime, it can eat you up inside”.

Doc’s eye focused somewhat. “You ever been to war, Wilkins?”

Wilkins shook her head. “I was in school when the U-war ended”.

“Never had to watch friends bleed out ‘cause an RPG jus’ blew half their guts out?”

Wilkins shook her head.

“Ever had to stuff someone’s guts back inside an’ sew ‘em up with reg’lar needle an’ thread ‘cause that’s all you had? Then hope to God they stay alive long enough to reach a real doctor?”

Wilkins shook her head. “Nope”, she replied softly.

Doc snorted “Some things you can’t essplain to someone ‘less they been through it”.

“And that’s what’s coming back on you?”

Doc eyed Wilkins. “Whaddoyou think?”

Wilkins regarded Doc carefully. “I know everyone’s got that one devil inside they can’t ever get rid of”, she answered. “And even though someone else is never gonna understand it, you gottta tell it to someone or other – otherwise it’ll eat you up from the inside”.

Doc softened slightly. “How’d you figure that out?”

Wilkins looked at her through grave eyes. “I got a few of my own”. She leaned over and set the mug on the small table by Doc’s bed. “Anyways, here’s some coffee, if you want it. If not, you can just dump it out later”. Wilkins turned toward the door.

As she reached the door Doc blurted “Hey!”

Wilkins turned toward her. “Uh”, Doc began awkwardly, “Shie-shie (Thank you)”. She hesitated before adding “For what you tried to do”.

Wilkins smiled and gave her a thumbs-up. “If you want to talk, sun’s up soon. Looks like a nice day for a walk”.

Doc shrugged. “Yeah, maybe”.

“You know where I’ll be”. Wilkins pulled the door shut as she left.

- - - - - - - - -

An hour later Gerrin, Reilly, Aldous and Park were sitting at a kitchen table in a farmhouse several miles from where Gerrin and company had rescued Reilly. A battery-powered lantern in the center of the table provided dim but adequate light for them to see each other.

The owner of the farm, a woman who went by the name “Auntie”, set mugs on the table before Gerrin, Reilly, Aldous and Park. “These people here”, she continued as she sat down, “They’re hard workers and all, but they got nowhere to go. This farm is it for them. Now, this boss fella, name’s McMillan, he says he’ll keep ‘em around, but like his other workers, they’ll be lucky if they get enough to keep ‘em standing”.

“Why not just shut it down and find another place? There’s still plenty of open space on this moon”, Reilly mused.

“Where they gonna go?” Auntie snorted as she brushed a lock of gray-tinged brown hair behind her ear. “Everything they got is here, and most of ‘em’s just barely holdin’ on as is”.

”Does the Alliance know about this?” Park asked.

“They don’t care”, Auntie shook her head scornfully. “This sort of thing’s funny to them. They ain’t steppin’ in unless there’s something in it for them. Far as they’re concerned, this farm and these people are just another niou fun (cow poop.) patty -- pardon my language”.

Gerrin sipped at the contents of his mug as he weighed what he’d heard. “What about your people”, he asked critically. “Are they willing to fight if the wolves come calling?”

Auntie thought about the question. “Most of ‘em”, she finally answered. “Can’t say all, but enough”.

Gerrin scanned his crewmembers: Reilly was deep in thought, Aldous was sweeping his thumb back and forth across the top of his mug, lost in his own thoughts. Park was sipping tentatively at his mug, his face unreadable. Gerrin glance out the window: the sky on the horizon had turned a lighter blue. “Come on, guys”, he announced, standing. “Let’s take a look around”. Facing Auntie he asked “You want to show us around the edge of your property? Give us an idea what we have to work with?”

“Sure”. Auntie reached for the lantern and stood up, starting toward the door. “This way”.

The five of them stepped from the farmhouse. “This way”, Auntie pointed, “that’s the closest boundary. Gerrin, Reilly, Park and Aldous followed. “I really appreciate this”, she added as they started toward a path on the side of the house.

The tour of the perimeter lasted over an hour. They surveyed two dirt roads leading between the fields, two ravines with running creeks, and what seemed like and endless worn picket fence around the edge of the farm. They turned and started down the second dirt road leading back to the farmhouse. Falling back behind Auntie, Gerrin asked the other three in a low voice “So, what do you think?”

“We could do it”, Aldous remarked. “Scrounge up some materials for some booby-traps, run some trip wires, maybe a few punji pits, we could make this place real defendable”.


“Let’s wait ‘till we have full stock of what we’re working with”, Reilly offered.


“I don’t want to sound like a rookie”, Park confessed, “but I am still learning, captain. Whatever you decide’ll be fine”.

Gerrin smiled slightly. “You gotta have some opinion, kid”.

“Well, sure, it’s defendable and all, but-“ He broke off as a figure came running along the path. ”Auntie!” the figure cried as it drew closer. “They’re back again!”

Auntie winced. “Didn’t think it’d be so soon”. Breaking into a trot, she called back “’Scuse me, gents!” As she pulled away she threw back “’less you’d like to help”.

“I’m in”, Gerrin called out, breaking into a jog. “Come on if you’re coming!” he called back to his crew.

Aldous, Park and Reilly quickened their pace as well. “Attacking at dawn”, Reilly huffed sourly as he ran. ”How cliché”




. . . . . . . . . . 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?”