I fixed it.
In the FSM it shows the procedure for "indexing" the motor, it turns out if you so much as touch the limits on other end of the actuator range, the whole thing binds up and won't move anymore. Not sure what prevents it form doing that when it's in the truck, magic or more likely limited range of the locker fork movement.
So I found this guys thread:https://www.tacomaworld.com/threads/e-locker-actuator-motor-install.466058/
He runs into the same problem and was able to unbind his by repeatedly "bumping" it with the 9v battery. Did not work for me, I had to take the gear off (c-clip), two screws, gently pry off back plate, and then lift the spindle/spring/plastic gear assembly out in one piece, rotate it slightly so that it is within it's correct range and reinsert it.
Now applying power via AA battery allows it to rotate in either direction based on polarity, just need to index it correctly as per the manual and reinstall.
Of course I wrecked the o-ring cracking the case open
but once I find a new one, I should be good to go.