Zeke had put the dead man onto the makeshift sled and pulled him over to the hole he had already dug for the others. Riddick stayed to watch Shazza for as long as Jack had stood in the light with her and cleaned the blood from her face and chest.
Riddick couldn’t say why he watched, or why he felt the need to; he told himself it was just curiosity. He hadn’t watched a woman for a while, that it was just curiosity, nothing more.
After a time, she had gone back into the shadows of the wreckage and the welding had begun again; he admired that too. That she could put aside something like that, to do what needed to be done. He crept closer to the pit that Zeke had dug, and listened intently at the top of the hole as Zeke pulled the dead man in with him.
His grip tightened on the knife at the sight of the small cave-like entrance at the bottom of the hole. Zeke had spotted it as well, and dropped to his knees for a closer look, the sidearm drawn. “What the bloody hell?” Clearly it wasn’t there the last time. Zeke looked back nervously at the wrecked ship, and then down at the sidearm in his hands.
The whispers had grown louder, almost frantic. In the open air they would fade out and disappear quickly but as Riddick stood over the pit that Zeke had dug near the spires, the whispers had strength and a purpose. He willed himself to stay still as he listened.
There was a small part of him that was torn, as he looked out towards the wreckage. What help could they possibly be anyway? Why risk everyone? The rapid fire from the sidearm and the man’s screams seemed to radiate from the ground underneath Riddick, the chirps and whispers almost triumphant.
The man was dead, of that there was no doubt, he could smell the blood; there was a lot of it. He knew there was nothing he could do for him but he stayed nonetheless, and waited to see what would come out of the hole.
“Shut up!” The light was too bright, and Johns cringed inwardly as he snapped at Fry. They had walked towards sunrise, towards the only place in that direction that Riddick could hide; the strange canyon that began behind the wreckage. Johns hated this place, he hated his shakes and he hated the fear that crept up on him even in daylight.
He had thought at first that the shapes he saw in the distance were trees, and where there were trees, there was water. But they weren’t trees. Even in this the planet’s haunted quality reached out to him. There was no way to know how long the skeletons had been there but they looked like fossils now, littered in a trail down the length of the canyon as far as the eye could see.
The shapes were jammed together so closely in some places that it looked as though they had all died at once, standing, without the room to even fall down to die. Johns had no answer for the interpreted question of one of the Imam’s three boys, about what could kill so many great things. Johns didn’t want to know; he didn’t want to think about it.
The children played among the bones, as though the place had no effect on them. Fry stood behind Johns and listened. She didn’t like being told to shut up but there was some undercurrent in Johns’ voice that told her to listen, that told her Johns might make her shut up if she didn’t. This was the choice that she had made, so she waited in silence for him to continue. His head tilted to the side. “Sounded like…gunshots.”
“Zeke!” Shazza had run across the expanse of dusty ground at the sounds of gunshots, at the screams. She didn’t think, she just ran, the mid-sized wrench nearly forgotten in her hand. He was gone; the only trace of him was the splatters of blood around the rim of the small hole at the back of the larger pit.
As one, Riddick and Shazza raised their gazes and looked at each other. Her hard face was lined in hurt and pain, her pale skin mottled with shock. There was a moment when he wanted to say something, anything. But what, why would she believe him? Riddick was a convicted mass murderer. He had overheard all of the things that Johns had told them about him, there was no way this woman would believe anything he said. But he had wanted to say something.
She was frozen now, in shock, so he slowly backed away from her. He would be gone before she shook it loose, and she wouldn’t have to get hurt.
Johns had come running at the sound of the gunshots. “Where the hell did he go!?” Shazza pointed in the direction that Riddick had run, towards the spires, and her own anger rose as the shock subsided.
‘The murdering bastard had killed Zeke’. It was the only thought that burned in her mind as she chased Johns and Riddick through the spires. Her fury consumed her with every step, drowned out every rational thought, until she was nearly blind with rage. They weren’t married; they weren’t committed in any conventional sense, but Zeke had been a true friend through some of the hardest parts of her life; and life as a free settler was hard.
She too was a criminal. Nowhere near in Riddick’s class, but she had married badly and had divorced her husband at the point of a rifle. Divorced on a planet where it was a crime to do so. Shazza didn’t live her life the way she did out of a sense of adventure; she was in hiding, and Zeke had stayed with her and protected her. He had been her friend and she didn’t have many friends, she couldn’t afford to.
Riddick ran hard across the unforgiving terrain. Even the ground beneath him played treacherous; the loose soil shifted underfoot which made every step dangerous and made him fight just to stay on his feet. He couldn’t breathe properly in the thin air but he ran anyway.
At least if he got to the spires, there was a chance that he could lose Johns long enough to catch his breath. Riddick fought to run, even as his vision started to blur and his breath became thready. Everything seemed to slow down and he barely felt the baton strike him as it swept in an arc across his ankles.
It wasn’t hard to bring him down, weakened and exhausted as he was, but he wasn’t about to go without a fight either. Johns swore and swung the baton over and over before he finally managed to do the one thing that he knew would put Riddick out; he ripped his goggles from him.
The light was so bright that Riddick thought he would die. Even with his eyes jammed shut, the light stabbed at him; it gouged at his eyes and screamed into his brain with a volume that nearly made him throw up what little he had managed to eat. The third sun had just started to rise ahead of him, and even with his darkened welders goggles, the light was a weight that nearly dropped him. It was about the only thing that could.
The blows came from everywhere it seemed, but Riddick felt the distinct near bone splitting pain of the steel baton as well as the duller jarring thuds from Shazza as she kicked him, as she screamed in rage. “What have you done with him?”
He could hear people, more than one, pull Shazza off, and Riddick listened as she fought them as well. She would have fought anything that got in her way. If she had caught him alone, he believed that she would have beaten him to death with the wrench she carried, if he had let her.
Fry had hung back to wait for Johns to take Riddick down, and he knew what drove Johns to fight him as hard as he did; he could smell the stink of fear on him, even if no one else could.
Shazza fought for different reasons; there was no fear on her at all. Riddick thought about how their little psychofuck family had started to break apart and found that he really didn’t like the thought of Shazza having to rely on Johns. He knew what Johns was, and he knew what he was capable of. Riddick got one last swing in at Johns, carefully aimed at a sensitive spot under the man’s jaw, just enough to make him see stars, before he let Johns pull him up and walk him back to the ship. Riddick still had no answer for why he did it, for why he had let him.
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