Rating: [R]– Violence, language, death, character death.
Fandom: PB/AU – Sequel to “Trust Me” and “Rider”. AU to “Last Dance Redux”.
Pairing: Riddick/Shazza, Jack/OMC, Various OM/FC’s
Disclaimer: Riddick, Shazza, Jack and Toombs from the Pitch Black and TCoR universes belong to their respective owners. All other characters are the creation of the author. “Trust Me”, “Rider”, and “Last Dance Redux”, their plotlines, settings and characters, are the creations of the author. No harm is intended in the use of the PB/TCoR characters. “The Moorglade” and all references to Sunhillow are concepts from the Jon Anderson album, “Olias of Sunhillow”. All other characters and places that you don’t recognize are a product of my imagination.
Summary: “Jack” takes place at the end of the story “Rider”. Riddick, Shazza and Jack have escaped T2 and have picked up a few members along the way. A pirate merc, a merc killer and others now make up the little psychofuck family, on the beautiful planet with an interesting history: Trieste 9. They have managed to drive off the Company once but will they be successful a second time?
Feedback: Constructive feedback is always appreciated.
Notes: The rating may change as the story continues. Please check back.
The air that blew across her arms was cool and, with her eyes closed, Jack tilted her chin up, filling her lungs with its clean greenness.
“They’re coming back, Jack,” Riddick had said. He didn’t say who was coming but Jack knew. The Company was coming, just as they had always expected.
Breathing deeply, she reached out, scenting more than just the air. She took in the subtle way that the breeze riffled through the grass, so gently that it only moved the very tops of the blades. The top few inches dried as the sun rose, still wet with dew beneath.
Grass like that would give away any intruder that tried to walk through it. Care had to be taken, as it would only take a slightly stronger breeze to move the grass from beneath as well, making surveillance based on the movements of grass alone difficult.
The scent of the earth underneath gave away the time of day, even with her eyes closed. Early morning, just past sunrise. The dew hadn’t yet evaporated, settling on the ground. It was the fertile dampness that gave a bottom note to the air.
The forest to the right of her was a darker scent, and still. It would be another hour or so before the air would fill with the sound of birdsong, until shafts of sunshine broke through the canopy and dappled the ground below. Like the telltale grass, the trees would give away any intruder, sending up clouds of the graceful, long-tailed black birds into the sky. As clear a warning of danger as any siren.
All of this knowledge and more she had soaked up from the man that stood to the right of her, at her elbow. Riddick. The scent of him was as familiar to her as her own. As he had taught her to do, she put Riddick, the others that had come out to watch the flight of the gliders, and her surroundings into the terrain that she had created out of nothing more than scent and memory.
‘Can’t always trust your eyes.’
At first it had been a hard thing, to imitate Riddick; she wasn’t completely sure what it was that he was doing because he didn’t put words to it, just expected her to understand. Difficult to concentrate on each particular scent in order to separate out what fit and what didn’t. Difficult to disregard what she thought her eyes knew about her terrain, to re-order the scene based on a sense other than sight. Perhaps the most difficult was accepting that so much of what Riddick did was done on gut instinct and feelings.
Feelings. It wasn’t something that he spoke of and so he hadn’t been able to tell her, to make her understand, what it was to reach out with every sense. Many years ago, Jack had made the mistake of blurting out that he did what he did on feelings and got a glare and a snort in return.
It didn’t change anything and she knew that she had been right. So did he. Riddick could call it anything he wished but Jack knew that what he was capable of has as much to do with intuition, interpretation and feeling as it did on any skill he had honed. Like so many of the things that she had learned from Riddick, she seized on it, expanded on it. That she kept to herself.
All of these things Jack took in before she opened her eyes and gazed across the vast grassland sea of Trieste 9.
There was no outward change but Jack could feel the difference. Riddick was right, they were coming.
“You hear it?” Riddick asked quietly, his voice low and for her ears alone.
“A low hum. It sounds far off. What is it?” Curiosity fired her as surely as it did Riddick. The hum was wrong. It wasn’t loud enough to drive the birds from their roosts or have the villagers behind them startle, but it was there, and it was wrong. The wrongness of the sound, in this place, had Jack focus intently on it.
“Drop ship, and it’s still a fuck of a long way off.” Riddick stared off across the grassland, far into the distance, where the line of the horizon softened details into a fuzzy line.
The sound of riffling grass alerted them as someone came up and joined them. There was no need to turn; there was only one other of their number that would know the sound of a Company drop ship so well that he could pick the sound from so far off. Duncan Warfield settled into the middle space between her and Riddick.
Shazza came up and joined them. Like the air, the grass, the earth and the forest, Jack took in these elements and fit them into her ‘verse as well, comforted in how well they settled into her acceptance of things.
“How far,” Jack pressed, determination setting her jaw in a hard line.
“Eager?” The snort was little more than a muted whuff as Riddick took his eyes off the horizon and settled on Jack.
No, it wasn’t so much eagerness she felt as a certain urgency. Still, verbal sparring was as big a part of what they shared, of his training, as anything else and she wasn’t about to step back from that now. “Aren’t you?”
One corner of Riddick’s mouth pulled down and his head tilted to the side in lieu of an answer. As eager as she really felt, which meant that yes, he was eager to go see what it was. The concern was heavier but neither said it out loud.
Which left it to Duncan. “The Moorglade’s too far off. We’ll need to go back to the village for horses.”
Looking back over her shoulder, Jack took in Shazza and further on, the glider. They said nothing but Shazza nodded once curtly and spun on her heel, heading back across the grass.
“Shouldn’t go alone; you know that,” Riddick said, reaching out and touching Jack’s arm, just above the elbow.
Looking back towards Shazza, Jack cracked a wry grin and fired back, “I’m not. Shazza and I can take the glider. It’ll be a little slow; they’re not made for two but we’re light enough that it should work.”
Jack was nodding as she explained, running over what the glider was capable of.
“Not alone,” he insisted, his fingers just touching her arm. “That could be Company up there. You ready for that?”
Jack didn’t pull away. If Riddick wanted to hold onto her until they were both dust, he would. This was different. In the years since the hammerhead planet, Riddick asserted less, touched more. Without talking about it, she and Shazza had accepted the subtle change. Quiet, in case he pulled back.
“Ready? You tell me, you trained me, am I ready?” Said in all seriousness, Jack tilted her head to the side, a mirror of Riddick.
The ghost of a smirk and then he pulled his hand back. It was all the answer he gave. Yes, she was ready, or he wouldn’t have let her go.
“I’m not going alone,” Jack reassured. “I’m going with Shazza.” She looked back over her shoulder and watched as Shazza reached the glider, standing at the wing. “The extra weight might slow us down a bit but we we’ll head out first. Duncan’s going back for horses; you can catch up with us easily enough.”
“Fair ‘nough.” Riddick watched as Jack loped off to join Shazza at the glider. “Bring a spare horse,” he shouted to Duncan, who was standing with a small knot of villagers, and then he was off, disappearing into the high grass.
“Fuck.” Jack walked backwards, watching him until he disappeared.
“What did you expect?” Duncan limped beside her, matching her pace with silent effort. It had been seven years since he had been injured. The limp hadn’t gotten any better but he had learned to cope with it well enough.
“I didn’t expect he’d want to run there on foot.”
“He won’t get far and he definitely won’t have to run all the way. We’ll catch up with him when we come back with horses.”
“Better make it quick,” she grinned as she reached the glider.
“Watch it, I’m even older than he is,” Duncan said with a grin, waving at one of the men of the village. On his way past, he patted the wing of the glider.
Jacob Underhill, the man she had taken as her husband, was the last of the villagers to disappear through the forest. Jack raised her arm in a salute to him before he disappeared.
“Are you sure this thing will take two?” Shazza asked as she walked around the back of the glider to stand just behind the left wing. Like the Moorglade, the gliders needed a running start. Unlike the Moorglade, they were maneuverable and could be pulled or pushed by anyone and she had found out through trial and error that the simplest method was to stand behind the wing on the windward side and run.
The village craftsmen had built in handholds, both on the wing and on the glider, for when it came time to stop running and jump aboard before the lightweight rig caught the winds over the grassland and took off.
As for Shazza’s question, Jack wasn’t entirely sure that the glider would take two, in that it was something she had never tried before. But they didn’t weigh much and now was as good a time as any to test the theory.
Shazza cast a look at Jack across the glider’s wing. Even at thirteen, Jack had been fearless, or as fearless as a girl of thirteen, on her own and chased by monsters, could be. Fearless, but never stupid with her life, or with anyone else’s. ‘Like Riddick that way,’ she thought.
The glider parted the grass, the blades hitting the underside of the wings with small, sharp snaps. As they broke into a run on either side of the glider’s body, the wings cleared the grass. By herself, Jack would have jumped aboard by now, leaping onto the running board at the same time as she grabbed the handhold higher up on the frame. With two to carry, she ran a little faster, pushing the glider even further into the wind.
Grinning, she looked over at Shazza and, as one, the two women reached for their handholds and jumped aboard, hooting as the body of the plane dipped once, nudging the tops of the grass. Not making excuses or apologies, they crashed together briefly in the small space of the glider’s body before Shazza settled behind Jack, holding onto the struts that spanned across the back.
Comfortable in charge, in control, Jack pulled a lever that adjusted the altitude, raising them up higher over the grass and leveling them out when they skimmed five feet over the surface of the very tops of the grass.
Bellowing against the force of the wind, Jack leaned back, bumping Shazza to get her attention. “A little slow, but we’re good! Here! Take this and help me turn her fully into the wind!”
The weight shifted slightly as Shazza pressed into the wooden frame and then the glider jagged, turning to use the wind that sang over the grass. With the altitude lever, Jack kept the nose from rising with the new force and held them to their course, racing in the direction of the sounds of the drop ship. In the direction of Riddick.
Up ahead, the tall grass parted and moved, shifting as Riddick cut a swathe through the green with no pretense of stealth. Even then, the grass sea of Trieste closed behind and swallowed him up, as though it sought to do what he wouldn’t: hide his tracks.
“We’re going to over-take him!” Shazza shouted as they closed on the figure of Riddick.
That was a risk Jack had considered, and not voiced; sure that when the time came that she could ease back the glider’s speed.
“Here!” Jack shouted as she leaned back to press a strap into Shazza’s hands. “Don’t pull all at once!” The wind cut Jack’s words and she opted to show Shazza what she meant. A quick study, Shazza imitated Jack’s short, intermittent tugs on the strap. Looking once across the wings, she noticed the flaps, the drag. In seconds, she had a rhythm that kept the glider from reaching its full speed without jarring.
“We’re coming alongside!”
The ruffle of a dark brown cloak and a glimpse of goggles as Riddick glanced over his shoulder at the fast-approaching glider. Grim-faced, Jack gauged the distance, only breaking into a grin when she was sure that he was well clear of the span of the wings. Distance was hard to judge in full flight, with a moving target and that was something that she kept in mind as they came alongside Riddick.
The luxury of looking across the wing at him as he ran was a brief one, and one she wouldn’t take at all if she was alone; she looked forward, staring far out over the grass. Behind her, Shazza breathed heavily as she strove to keep their pace to that of the running man, and Jack filed that away as well. More adjustments would have to be made. Now that she knew that the gliders could take two, it wasn’t that far to see that they should carry two. One to pilot and one to fight? But it would have to be made easier for the pilot. Not everyone was her. Not everyone was Shazza.
None of the men had offered to take the gliders, preferring the horses or the heavy antlered beasts that they had bred for war. It left the village women and Jack wasn’t sure how she would work that, especially if the gliders were too difficult to fly.
All of this flew through Jack’s head as they paced Riddick who continued to lope as gracefully as any antelope through the tall grass. Riddick had run her before; pushing her to the point of exhaustion and beyond. To where her mind shut down and her body took over. So Jack knew that Riddick hadn’t reached the end of his endurance, no matter how she teased him about his age, but she was glad that Shazza kept the pace of the glider to Riddick’s instead of pushing for more speed.
Even as she looked ahead for any sign of the drop ship, her awareness was pulled behind them, for any sign of Duncan and the villagers. The village wasn’t far off. Through the woods a short way and they would reach the outskirts of the village. Jacob would insist upon coming but she knew that Duncan would keep their number low. There were only so many horses and he would want to take men he could rely upon completely. Johns, Jacob, Theo, perhaps a few more.
As she ran the numbers through her head, she felt a distant rumble, but from behind them this time. The horsemen. The sound swelled and she fought against the urge to turn and watch, fighting to keep her attention focused ahead, on the ominous silence where the hum of the drop ship had filled their thoughts before.
Thunder shook the ground, shook the very air as the horsemen raced to make up the distance. The roar separated into distinct hoofbeats as they drew closer and Jack shot a quick look across the wing to Riddick.
The robe swept clean from his right side, Riddick watched behind as the cloud of men and horses closed the distance. Never entirely comfortable with the animals, he slowed, letting the glider move out ahead.
For a few moments, he fell out of Jack’s line of sight as the glider moved into the fore, leading a charge of horsed men across the grass.
As much as she wanted to watch, it was her duty to keep them in the air. To stop now would mean that the horses would have to wait until she and Shazza could get her off the ground again. To stop now would mean that the men could reach the drop ship before her, without her, and that wasn’t an option. When they reached whatever it was that they faced, she intended to be standing at Riddick’s side. That was how it was meant to be; that was what they had trained for.
The horsemen swept alongside the racing glider, slung out wide to either side and Jack took her eyes off the horizon to catch quick glances of the spectacle. Jacob, Theo, Johns and at least a dozen other men from the village rode hard on the local blunt-faced, sturdy dun horses, but she couldn’t see either Duncan or Riddick.
“Behind us!” Shazza shouted, just as Jack dared again to look back, making the glider shimmy to the right. The horsemen on that side pulled away from the pale grey-green wing of the glider; at their current speed, the elegant wing could easily sever a horse’s head, or a man’s. It would also kill the two women when the glider slammed into the earth and they’d likely be trampled by the horses into the bargain.
Sure as her word, Duncan and Riddick were coming up hard from behind and Jack was sure she could feel the hot breath from the horses as they ate up the ground between them. The villagers were well accustomed to riding horseback, almost from the moment they could walk and jumping into the saddle of a running horse was a childhood pastime, but Riddick had different experiences and different memories. He would never be entirely comfortable near them.
A flash of dark brown edged the other horsemen out of the way as first Riddick and then Duncan swept up the right alongside the glider’s wing.
Not as graceful or sure as the other riders, Riddick clung to the animal’s back, grim-faced and white-knuckled. The sharp crack of the wind tore his robe out back behind him, exposing the knives he wore sheathed to his thighs and lower back. Normally obscured, they were visible to all and, other than Duncan, the other horsemen edged further away from him. It didn’t matter that there was little Riddick could do on a horse but hold on; the blades commanded distance.
The horses ate up the ground in great strides, their ears laid close against their heads as they flattened out, racing for the horizon. Ahead, the natural line of the earth was pierced by the sudden appearance of the dull grey metallic hulk of the drop shop. Its entry crushed the grass flat in a wide circle and it squatted in the middle, its partially retracted tow cable trailing uselessly into nearby rocks.
Two of the horses on the far left shied at the sight, breaking the hard line as they approached the alien ship. As two went, more followed, and the horsemen pulled back on their reins, slowing in the face of the unknown.
© Copyright December 2009 xxxevilgrinxxx