The emergency lights flickered on and off as Bishop, Duncan and the tech made their way down the corridor to the main body of the ship. What little light they managed to emit sporadically only managed to make the dark that much deeper. Duncan shut out the disorienting effect as best he could and trailed his hand down the wall of the corridor instead; it was easier to rely on touch in the darkness. He didn’t stop or turn as he knew the tech was right behind him. “The emergency lights are on a battery system….”
“It’s still electrical.” Duncan listened carefully to the shaken voice of the tech finish the sentence he had started; given the landing and his near death that was understandable. The shake lessened as he spoke about something he was surer of than his continued survival. “Whatever it was we hit in orbit, it seems to be echoed down here; some sort of electromagnetic pulse.”
“Safe?” Bishop asked. The sounds of shouts and the occasional scream drifted out of the dark to them from further ahead. To end up all of the way out here only to be cooked by some sort of radiation might have left him amused if he wasn’t so personally involved.
“I’ve been in enough dangerous environments to tell and I don’t think we’re in any sort of physical danger, it’s pretty low grade, whatever it is.” The tech officer related. “Anything electrical though, that’s another matter; the emergency lights for instance. They’re powered by battery, but the system is still hard wired to the electrical system of the ship, using all the electrical systems, just a different power source.” Duncan noted that the tech moved up to walk beside him as he felt more comfortable about the topic of conversation.
“Any chance it can be repaired?” Duncan listened to Bishops’ footsteps falter ahead as he listened in on the conversation. He knew Bishop didn’t like the dark, and he hated to not be in control of a situation, no matter how small. Duncan grinned and thought it might not be all that bad if the system couldn’t be repaired right away.
“The wiring’s not fried, so it’s possible, I guess. It’s not steady…” The corridor opened out into a large bay and the noise of shouts and screams of pain intensified. Duncan closed his eyes and inhaled; the metallic tang of blood in the air could almost be felt, as an ache in the back of the throat, like copper. He listened as Bishop’s footsteps faltered and stilled, the tech’s breath sped up.
“What’s not steady?” Duncan reached out to hold the tech’s elbow and made the other man jump. He could feel Bishop just ahead of him in the half dark, quiet but intent on the answer as well.
“The um, the electromagnetic pulse, it’s not steady. Not constant I mean. I noticed it before we hit orbit.” His breath hissed in as a short burst of panic caught hold of him; the last thing he wanted to do was make out that all of this could have been avoided. “I mean, I…uh…the reading from the planet swung wildly, but every few minutes I could get one steady reading before it went nuts again. I didn’t know…”
Bishop turned towards the sound of the tech’s voice and made him take a step towards Duncan. “Could we get a signal out.” Duncan smiled at the sound of strain in Bishop’s voice as the man tried not to shout out his question.
“The pulse, the clear signal, seems to recur about every twenty minutes or so. I’d have to time it to be sure. Even then I don’t know how far the signal would go, or what kind of interference it would face, but it’s conceivable.” The tech spoke quickly, and glanced frequently at Duncan, eager to get out something that would ensure his survival a little longer.
Duncan felt Bishop’s indecision although he doubted anyone else would, definitely not the tech officer, who would do anything just to stay alive at this point. Bishop feared a fiasco more than anything else, and that’s what this started to look like. Duncan thought to himself that Bishop had grown accustomed to easy kills, and what was worse, so had the men that employed him. They expected that Bishop would come back with his quarry; dead, alive, it didn’t matter. Bishop’s crews had gotten larger as time went on. ‘His entourage’. Right now there was no way to tell how many of his ‘entourage’ would live through the day and, unless the tech officer managed to get a signal out, there was no way to either call in reinforcements or get off the planet. Duncan grinned evilly as he thought about how much Bishop had changed over the years, at how soft he had gotten. He slipped behind Bishop in the dark and made him jump when he patted him on the back. “Let’s go see who we’re left with.”
Shazza rested her forehead against Riddick’s chest and just let him hold her. She had never been a woman that had any great need to be held or comforted by a man but she would accept it now, for herself and Riddick both. She wouldn’t let him apologize, but this she could allow. He held her close and stroked her back. “Those painkillers doing any good?”
His voice was a deep purr; she pressed her head to his chest before she pulled back to look up at him. “Not a damned thing.” She dropped her head back to his chest and chuckled at the thought. After everything that had happened to them all and the only injury she’d suffered was a bump on the head. She looked up when he cupped the back of her neck, his fingertips made all of the hairs stand up. She found that he hated the goggles again, hated the daylight. His features softened and she would have done anything for darkness. Her eyes closed and she remembered the feel of his hands on her neck as she lay out on the deck, as he felt if anything was broken, felt if she would live.
His nose brushed against hers first; everything about him was gentle. A soft deep kiss that had her melt against him and forget about the pain in her head for a moment. A deep purr, a soft growl and the whisper of stubble against her cheek as he came up for air and switched sides. His hand trailed down her back, over her side, to cup her breast, his thumb traced over the stiffened peak of her nipple.
He thought about what he had said to Jack up on deck, that he loved them both. As the kiss broke and he looked down at her hard beautiful face he knew that it was true, and he had no idea how to say it or even where to begin. Riddick grinned and buried his nose in her hair, being careful not to touch her injury. “How’s your head now?”
Shazza dropped her hands from his waist to cup the firm flesh of his ass through his cargos. “I almost forgot about it for a minute. What else you got?” She couldn’t miss what he had for her, pressed against her belly.
“What the hell is that?” Riddick and Shazza both looked up towards the deck at the sound of Jack’s clear voice.
Riddick looked back at Shazza and leaned down again to kiss her passionately, her body pulled hard against his, before he let her go again. “Damn kids…” She let out a small snort of laughter and followed him outside to see what had caught Jack’s attention.
It was mid afternoon Riddick guessed, by the position of the sun. The Moorglade had overrun the storm, barely. Its tattered shreds still hung in the sky behind them and if they were to stop it wouldn’t be long before it caught up with them.
Theo walked towards them from where he stood at the door to the main cabin, the ‘bridge’. It surprised him a little, how happy it made him to see Riddick and Shazza together. The affection they shared should have annoyed or bored him, but it didn’t.
Riddick looked ahead to Jack as she leaned over the railing and gave Theo a strange look as he walked up beside him. “Shouldn’t someone be flying this thing?”
Theo glanced behind him into the bridge again, grinned, and turned back to them. “No need. Jack and I were up on the bridge. The ship flies herself, as long as we stay on the ley lines that seem to run all over the planet.”
Both Riddick and Shazza gaped as the implications and questions set in, before they both started to talk at once. “How does it stay on the lines? How do you know the ley lines are everywhere?”
Theo looked over at Jack as the girl peered over the bow. Riddick noted the smile and the way Theo stood a little straighter. ‘He’s proud of her too.’
“Jack found the previous owners’ collection of charts. I can’t translate much of it, but a chart is a chart. As for the Moorglade herself, we both tried to budge her from up on the bridge, just to see if we could. We found a mechanism to stop her, but that would have probably required that she be pulled again.” Theo didn’t elaborate but looked at Riddick’s hands fleetingly. He wouldn’t want to have to see him pull the ship again. “We also found a way to steer her, but it appears that if we stay here, on the ley lines, she’ll run until we stop her.”
Theo turned back to watch Jack as she laughed at something they couldn’t see at the front of the ship. All three of them walked forward to join her. Shazza’s curiosity was piqued and she turned to Theo, “where will that be?”
Theo walked ahead of them both to stand beside Jack at the bow of the ship; he walked easily with a huge smile on his lips and his hands held casually behind his back. A man on a grand adventure. “I have absolutely no idea.”
There was a time when an answer like that would have pissed Riddick off enough to kill him for it. Theo’s sense of adventure had started to rub off on him, in this place. Riddick normally didn’t like to be surprised, and had spent much of his life to make sure that he wasn’t, but this didn’t bother him in that way. He was curious, rather than angered, and that reaction interested him.
Jack turned and smiled at him as Riddick’s hand rested on her back. “Look.” Riddick, Theo and Shazza followed Jack’s hand as it pointed out over the bow. “Wait for it…” They looked down below them at the long grass that flew under the keel. Shazza gasped as one black bird flew up through the grass, almost as though it had waited under the ship, only to fly a short distance and disappear back under the waving green grass. Replaced by another graceful black bird, the same ones that they had seen flying along the ley lines before. Their long tails arced gracefully over the grass, and their wingtips touched as they dove into the green wake from the ship.
“Like dolphins, porpoise. I’ve only ever seen pictures of them, but they used to play in the forward wake of the tall ships. It was said to be good luck.” Riddick found Theo’s grin infectious and had to bite the inside of his lip to stop himself. They both looked at Jack, and then at each other, before they grabbed Jack and held her over the side. She screamed and struggled at first until she realized what it was they intended to do.
Jack looked over her shoulder at both of the men, who held her securely. Being held like that should have terrified her given her past; she didn’t like to be pinned. After the first moment of panic however, all she felt was safe. And grateful. She floated just a short way above the grass as the birds flew underneath her. She felt the sting of tears again but this was different. With Riddick’s arms securely around her waist and Theo holding her legs, she let her arms out to the side and flew with the birds below her.
The sound of the single gunshot silenced everything else; even the screams faded into the background.
They had found flashlights, still safe in the emergency cabinets, when they finally made it out into the main bay. The tech, a man with the unfortunate name of Johns, wished that they hadn’t found them at all. Some of the men had managed to get secured but not all. Four had died, thrown about the ship as they had plunged through the trees. That number was five now, as Bishop stood over the now still form of a merc with a broken arm.
“Do you intend to shoot all of the wounded?” Duncan felt the tech shudder behind him and watched as the light he held flickered across the floor. Duncan took a step closer to Bishop, his chest brushed up against his back as he circled around within range to disarm Bishop if he had to. He felt Bishop tense at the touch, and listened to the short sharp intake of breath as their bodies touched for a moment. Fear, anger. Excitement. Bishop had wanted to shoot the tech officer and had been angry then that Duncan hadn’t let him. He was still angry, and unsure just where the new facts on the ground left him. Duncan found that he very much liked to make him unsure.
The facts had changed, and it had started before this particular mission had even started. The mercs on the ship followed Bishop, but only because Bishop paid their wages. He led by fear, and fear was all he had. Duncan had more and he knew that if he were to disarm Bishop right now; something he had no problem doing, that there wasn’t a single merc on the ship that would back Bishop. And Bishop couldn’t shoot them all. Bishop clicked the safety on the weapon and holstered it. He didn’t really have any other choice.
“How many injured do we have in total?” Bishop looked down at the face of the medic as he knelt next to the man that he had tried to treat just a few minutes ago. He didn’t want to answer; he didn’t want to find out how many more men Bishop would kill. He looked to Duncan, and answered only when he got the okay.
“Se…Seven. Seven injured. It’s nothing that won’t mend though.” The medic swallowed hard, as he stood between Bishop and the rest of the wounded. He was a merc, like the rest of them, but there were limits to what he could allow. He didn’t want to answer the question in the back of his mind; if he would die for his patients.
“Five dead, seven injured. Plus the medic left here to care for them. That leaves us with only seventeen men.” Bishop turned and pointed at the tech officer again, which made the man flinch. “See that you get that signal out. I need…I’d like to have more men here within the week.”
Duncan smiled coldly when Bishop turned to leave the dark air of the ship into the forest outside. Bishop had slipped, and Duncan intended to use that against him. When the time was right.
Copyright © October 2006 xxxevilgrinxxx