Date: September 2009
Rating: R – violence
Disclaimer: Riddick doesn’t belong to me, neither does Jack. Granger is a product of my imagination and has appeared once before in the short story, “Granger’s Run.” Any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental. In addition, the song “Trouble” is written by Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens).
Archive: FDB, FF.net
Feedback: Please leave constructive feedback.
Author’s Notes: Granger has appeared in the short story “Granger’s Run“. For the sake of this story, I have played with the timeline.
Dedication: For NJRD
I have seen your eyes
And I can see death’s disguise
Hanging on me
Hanging on me
I am beat, I’m torn
Shattered and tossed and worn
Too shocking to see
Too shocking to see
Oh trouble move from me
I have paid my debt
Now won’t you leave me in my misery
Much was made of survival, of the ability to overcome, to get up and keep going in the face of adversity. As Riddick chittered against a cold only he could feel, the earthenware cup of unidentifiable tea held tightly in his hands, he knew the truth.
Survival had less to do with any strength of purpose or of character. Survival meant the sheer will to do what others thought unimaginable. To do the unthinkable and walk away afterward. To not look back.
Even though he had managed to escape this time, he wasn’t so sure that he had walked away clean and he knew that he had looked back.
There were few things that he regretted. Life was far too short, too brutal, to regret any moment where he could draw breath, but those few small things that he did regret could crush him beneath their weight. That most people would never know that he felt that way changed little. He could afford moments of introspection when he was free, but he knew that to show what mattered would lead to more people getting hurt.
“You’re not real.”
In the tightly packed shack that passed for a local bar on the frontier mining colony, vicious looking men went out of their way to give him space. The bar stools on either side were empty. Other than the bartenders that slung swill from dirty bottles into dirtier glasses, there was no one in front of Riddick that he could be talking to.
It didn’t matter. On some level Riddick knew that the slender girl that stood before him wasn’t real. Not real in the way those around him were real.
Elfin, the young girl flickered and vanished, only to reappear as the two dirty bartenders walked in her space. Sometimes as neat and clean as the day he had left her on New Mecca, in the care of the Holy Man. More often she was grimy, sweaty and afraid, her battered goggles on her newly shorn head.
She was real enough that he swore he could smell her. The slightly sweet smell that only came from children. Something else beneath. In any case, she never spoke and he wasn’t sure if that was a blessing or not. He would have called her a ghost if not for his deep-buried need for her to be alive, somewhere, anywhere.
Real or not, she remained. Which brought him back to survival and all the things that he had done to survive.
After New Mecca he had set a path into the wilds, working to put as much space between him and Jack as he could. Another ghost lane, another grimy cargo freighter. Stowed away in the bowels of the ship, he had very nearly made it.
It had been a gamble. He knew it but he had been tired, bone tired, and the cargo ship he has stowed away on had seemed a quieter option but instead of a remote mining or agricultural planet, the cargo ship had made an unscheduled detour to drop a delivery at a far flung prison.
As far as prisons went, it hadn’t been much. Butcher Bay, Ursa Luna, Dark Athena, all those and countless others, Riddick had under his belt. Done time. Escaped. Added to his impressive resume. What Decarra 12 had going for it was its sheer isolation. He had wanted to be as far from New Mecca, from Jack, as he could get and that he had finally accomplished.
And still he couldn’t escape Jack. The girl had followed him out into the wilderness, whether he had wanted her to or not.
With the amount of practice he’d amassed, getting out of the cell had been fairly easy. It was getting out of the prison, and to where, that was the larger issue. He took it one step at a time.
In every other prison he had been in, Riddick had been able to rely on the convict’s grapevine to learn something about the layout, the guards, the warden. In Decarra 12 he was flying blind. Not that he intended to let that stop him. If there was a way in, there would be a way out. It just came down to what he was willing to do to survive. That’s what it always came down to.
In the dark outside of his cell, he had crept along the walls, keeping to the deepest shadows, before he slipped down through a drain opening into the sewer below. It was a twelve foot drop with no hope of a graceful, or dry, landing.
The sudden splash had aroused the desultory interest of a guard who stood on the lip of the now closed drain cover and shone a light through the grate. After sweeping the hole, he moved on. Only when all traces of light left did Riddick rise out of the muck, spluttering into his palm so the noise wouldn’t attract any more attention. With any luck, the guard would think the noise he heard was a rat, or what always seemed to pass for rats in every prison he had ever been in. Even then, he stood stock still in the drain opening, timing the footfalls of the guards on watch. Choosing the right time to move out.
The dark had been no obstacle but his eyeshine did nothing to help him find a direction when he had none and he had to double back several times as he made his way through the fetid sludge in the tunnels below the prison.
No sound, no light. Growing nausea. Disorientation. He had quickly lost track of the passing of time. In the total black of the sewer he had settled on one of the oldest, most reliable methods. He would stop, retch, and mark the wall. If he managed to circle back to the mark he had made, he would cross one mark with the other. Try to sit and find what rest he could before moving forward, ever forward.
That he was lost was a foregone conclusion yet he persevered, clenching his teeth against the bile that rose in his throat. Move forward. There would be a way out if only he kept moving.
When he grew too tired to move, that’s when Jack had first showed up. She had stood in front of him, silent as he ground the heels of his hands into his eyes. Not so disoriented that he didn’t know that Jack was in fact on New Mecca, not some hellhole at the end of the galaxy.
Knowing that didn’t change the power the young girl held over him. As he retched pathetically into the fetid water, he had clung to her image. To the remembered sound of her voice. He clung to her like life itself.
When he was shat out on the other side of Decarra 12′s walls, he knew that it was partly because of Jack that he had survived. That without her, he may have wandered in the tunnels, lost, paying penance for having originally left her back in the cave on T2.
As he gulped in the only slighter cleaner air in the broken culvert outside the walls, he also knew that he was sick.
© copyright September 2009 xxxevilgrinxxx