Shazza fidgeted with the switch for the sandcat, as she tried to still her urge to turn the engine over. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the horizon; it all seemed to move so fast. Fry screamed for Johns to hurry up and Shazza couldn’t wait any longer, she had to turn the engine over, she had to move or she would scream and be driven insane by the sight of the eclipse as it occurred before her very eyes.
She told everyone to hang on while she drove the sandcat around in a very sharp circle to pick up Johns. If he didn’t come out after that, she wasn’t about to stop and Johns would have to stay there. Johns ran out the door of the communal room with his jacket, shotgun and box of shells, which only deepened her disgust. She knew without the need to ask that Johns didn’t value those few shells in order to protect any one of the survivors. He valued them for the little bit of power that it gave him over the rest.
When she thought of power she found her thoughts fell on Riddick, who right now had his hand out to help Johns into the sandcat. She wasn’t about to slow down, so Johns would need all the help he could get, and a part of her was glad that Johns was forced to accept his help, and know that Riddick didn’t have to do it.
The skeletons in the canyon probably weren’t here when the settlers had built their encampment, and the road through the canyon was rough. Shazza didn’t slow down, she was afraid to. She could feel the air begin to cool almost in anticipation of the darkness to come.
There were points along the canyon where the bones were too thickly knotted together, and she swore loudly and banged on the steering wheel. “Everyone better hold on tight.” She backed up and rammed them, and felt her heart lurch into her throat when she felt the tires spin uselessly against the bone fragments that littered the corridor before they bit in.
She wouldn’t stop again, if she did she feared that the sandcat would get mired in the soft sandy ground and that they would be trapped somewhere between the crash ship and the settlement when nightfall hit them.
Riddick watched Shazza tense with her frequent glances at the horizon, and watched the tension on her face, her teeth gritted in stubborn determination, every time the bones in the canyon tried to stop her. He supposed that if he were somewhere else, or someone else, he would find something to say to her, although he had no idea what that would be. Comfort was alien to him, and he had no idea how to take away someone else’s fears, he had spent far too much of his life inspiring them.
He didn’t tell her to slow down or that it would be all right; he just hung on tighter, and let her do what she needed to do, what she could do. He looked at her, and he thought about survival, and what it meant to him.
On the Hunter-Gratzner, right before they had crashed, he found a bare moment of admiration for a captain that would send the passengers to their deaths in order to survive. ‘It’s what I would have done, in a heartbeat.’ That seemed like a very long time ago. That wasn’t survival, it was cowardice, and every action of Fry had only strengthened that new belief.
Shazza was different. He had no doubt that she was terrified, but still she pushed against everything that was thrown against her. She felt terrible guilt when she had kicked him when he was down, but he admired her then too.
She fought. She didn’t wait to see who would fight for her, or back her play, and he believed that she would have stood toe to toe with him if it came down to it. She would never give up. His eyes cut to Fry again, and he willed himself to show no emotion. Shazza wouldn’t sell out anyone else either; if she stood with you, then she stood with you.
The massive shell of an unbroken ribcage rose up before them and he watched her knuckles whiten on the wheel, her eyes grown hard and determined. He half expected those bones to fall down of their own accord rather than face her, a thought that made him smile.
Jack grinned back at him; her eyes had grown softer as she watched him. He had hardly taken his eyes off Shazza since their race back to the crash ship had begun. Jack hadn’t seen much love in her life, and to be honest, didn’t know if she would even recognize it when she saw it; but she imagined that if someone were to look at you longingly the way Riddick looked at Shazza, that you could say it was love. She wasn’t too young to know he would never say such a thing though, she even felt sad as she thought that maybe he never could.
Riddick looked at Jack and smiled quietly; as he looked at her shaved head and battered goggles. Another survivor. He didn’t want to think about what would make a young girl like Jack run, about what would make her disguise herself as a boy. About why she would want to be like him.
She pulled her goggles down in imitation and he had to fight the grin a little harder, as he pointed in the direction of the bones that Shazza was about to drive into. That Jack ducked without hesitation behind the safety of the cage that protected the cab of the sandcat didn’t go unnoticed by him. If it came down to it, Jack would listen to what he said without question. She trusted him too.
The furrow left by the Hunter-Gratzner as it crashed was too unsettled to drive the sandcat over, not without the danger of being mired in the newly thrown earth. Riddick leaned forward as Shazza was about to leave with the others and whispered, “Stay with the sandcat, Shazza.”
He hadn’t offered an explanation, but something in his voice told her not to question. It was quiet and concerned. She wished that she could see his eyes; he had looked right at her as he walked by the cab after he helped Jack over the side; they seemed to bore into her, as though he tried to tell her something deeper.
‘Stay with the sandcat, because it all could go wrong’, is the impression she got. Jack had squirmed out of his grasp again, and he looked almost annoyed, his lips thinned into a white line, as he looked one last time at Shazza before he went after Jack.
“I…I just need to get something, I’ll be right back…” Paris stood indecisively in front of the sandcat and looked at his own container some distance away, and the crash ship. He glanced once at the eclipse as it bloomed before them before he set off at a near run for what he clearly held to be valuable.
Shazza couldn’t imagine the man would run anywhere before this, and was thoroughly disgusted that he chose whatever small ‘treasures’ he had in that container to the practical things that she and Jack had stowed at the crash ship earlier in the day.
She watched as the others made their way across the disturbed earth to the remains of the Hunter-Gratzner and her heart lurched into her throat as she realized that Johns didn’t leave his shotgun behind, but had it strapped to his thigh. Was that why Riddick had told her to stay with the sandcat? Why he had seemed annoyed when Jack wormed out of his grasp? Could Johns be a threat?
She had stepped out of the sandcat, and was prepared to cross the distance towards the ship when Riddick, Johns and Imam all came out again. Riddick carried two power cells, and strained under the weight as he stumbled over the uneven ground outside.
Even with two he still fared far better than either Johns or Imam, who carried one power cell each. Fry and Suleiman had stayed on the other side, and Paris was still nowhere to be found.
Jack was halfway across the distance, as Imam and Johns returned, and froze, the battered goggles raised up slowly in perfect imitation of Riddick.
The sky dimmed strangely at first, as the rays of the sun flickered through the rings of the planet one last time. The beam of light sharpened for a single bright moment, as the rings moved on, and the sun was swallowed by the planet that now pushed higher upon the horizon. Even then the sun fought, as its last rays died in an arc of fiery light before it winked out, and darkness fell.
It was the sounds they noticed first, an unbroken string of croaks and clicks that seemed to come out of the very air around them. It was almost triumphant, and the sound moved up from underneath the ground. The clicks and whistles hovered over the spires, where Zeke had first buried the dead. The whicker of wings, countless wings, on the night air rose almost as one from the crumbling spires.
The creatures had moved as a school of fish, as one, in the coring room and it was no different now. No individual shapes could be seen, they were like wisps of smoke torn by the wind as they swirled over the spires in an awe-inspiring display.
It was Imam’s voice that shook them from their trance, as he grabbed Jack and made his way back across the broken ground to the crash ship. “RUN!” Imam didn’t look back, but pulled Jack with him to the relative safety of the ship where he had to hold on as Jack fought and called out for the rest to run.
Paris dropped whatever he had brought with him from the container; he screamed as he ran, and fell into the slash of earth between him and the crash ship.
Riddick and Shazza stood in awe for a moment longer before he pushed her forward, while he pulled her up at the same time to keep her from falling. He drove her forward, relentless, without a word said, as the excited sounds of the creatures drew ever closer.
In the end it wasn’t graceful or kind, but he pushed her hard and her body slammed into the soft ground that still separated them and the ship. The breath went out of her in a whoosh as his body landed on top of hers.
She was so shocked that she was almost angry, and struggled uselessly against him, but it was no use. His body just pressed hers deeper into the ground, and she realized what he had done. He had protected her.
She could feel his heart race against her back, the only outward sign that he just might be as frightened as she was. Her head turned to the side, and she stopped her struggles, to lie still beneath him. She pressed every part of her body into the earth, and felt him press into her, and the wings moved closer still. She couldn’t see them from her position underneath Riddick, and for that she was profoundly grateful, she didn’t want to see. And she did.
He could have thought of a hundred different reasons for why he had done what he had done, none of them would have been the truth. It was too much to think about, so he put it out of his mind, and pressed into Shazza; he pulled her arms and legs in tighter to himself, to protect her.
His lips rested against her cheek when she turned her head, as she flattened herself out even more. She was terrified, the grains of sand moved in the wake of her fast shallow breath, her heart raced. He watched her eyes as she at first looked directly ahead, to seek out some sign of the creatures who could be heard above them, before she looked up to him instead.
She was terrified, but she trusted him, and she thanked him, from the depth of her soul, with just a look. His breath caught; no one had ever looked at him like that. It wasn’t because he saved her, or because she thought he had made some sort of a grand gesture, this was different. She looked at him, and she saw him.
His hand slipped into hers as the wings flew over them the first time. They didn’t breathe, but stayed absolutely still and silent as the wings flew over, some of them so close that the wind rustled his clothing.
She moved to get up, and pull him with her to the safety of the crash ship, but he wouldn’t move. She had started to panic, had something happened to him, was he hit? His lips pressed against her cheek and she grew still at his whispered word, “Stay”.
Her hands tightened into fists and their fingers interlaced as they watched Paris struggle to his feet and make a run for the ship. She tried to scream but their interlaced fingers stifled it as he covered her mouth and held her down. “Don’t watch, Shazza.” But she watched, she couldn’t tear her eyes away, as Paris started to run and was struck from behind by the cloud of creatures that began to pull him apart as they lifted him from the ground. He screamed the entire time, even as his legs were ripped from his torso and his body disappeared into the cloud of wings.
He didn’t let go of her hand, as he pulled her up and they ran the rest of the way to the crash ship. Imam held Jack back, so that she couldn’t run out to them. After his attempts at holding onto Jack, his admiration for Imam grew, he held her fiercely, and wouldn’t let her go no matter how much she fought and struggled. He didn’t let her go until Shazza and Riddick had made it back to the crash ship, where the survivors stood in the doorway and turned to look at the sight before them.
The spires continued to crumble as more and more of the creatures broke free until the air was full of them. Riddick raised his goggles to watch; it was incredible and awe inspiring, terrifying. He hadn’t dropped Shazza’s hand, it was as though with everything that had just happened that one small step had been overlooked, and so they stood with their fingers interlaced and looked out as the creatures filled the sky.