I huff at the setting blue sun, and the rising red and yellow suns. "Three suns is really overkill," I mutter to myself, taking a drink from the water bottle I've decided to share with Riddick.
He chuckles under his breath at my comment, pulling the sled of scrap metal and other knickknacks I'm sure Johns put with it just to get under Riddick's skin. "You ain't the one with sensitive eyes, Minx."
I shake my head at that, unable to deny it, as I shoot a featherlight spell at a few of the heavier pieces on the sled, making it easier to maneuver over the rocky terrain. "I'm not, but at least we won't suffer from dehydration."
"The benefits of having someone of your talents among our numbers," he chuckles.
I simply smile and continue walking along beside him in silence, only mildly curious about where Death has been these past hours.
I curse Fate and her designs. She would send my Mistress and her Mate to a desert world, with bioraptors, of all creatures, hidden underfoot.
Even worse? She timed it so that it would happen days before the six-month long eclipse.
I can feel the upcoming deaths of most of the survivors, though I look forward to the end of that Paris fool. He is nigh useless, but at least his goods will provide light in case of any night-time escapades. The children I worry for immensely, because of the coward, who will, without a doubt, be the one to endanger them, and possibly lead to their deaths.
I do feel, however, that Riddick will keep his promise, and save my Mistress and the children. Perhaps even the holy man… yes, I will bargain with Fate for these lives. I'll trade the captain, mercenary, and coward for the children and holy man, though she may consider sparing the widowed friend of my Mistress. I can win the argument because of her timing and the previous deaths on this planet.
The little Minx, I know she's lightening the sled for me when she knows better than to risk herself. Maybe I'll let it slide, since she must be making up for changing my memories when I was a kid. Doesn't mean I'll let her keep doing stuff for me, even if I appreciate it, but she's risking exposing herself to Johns if she keeps doing things with her magic.
"Minx," I warn her as she looks at the sled again. "Better cut it out before I'm not the only one noticin' your tricks."
She gives me a smirk that makes me suppress a growl. "The ones who notice won't be a cause for concern for much longer, Riddick," she almost purrs. And I'll be damned, but the animal in me wants to hide her away for all sorts of… activities, keep her away from the world. "I'll take my chances with the others."
"And what about me?" I growl in answer, taking the water she offers and nearly drain it.
"I'll take my chances," she repeats, challenging me silently.
With a grin of anticipation, I give the bottle back. "Better be careful, little Minx."
The settlement is just as dead as the surface of this world, but at least it shows there once was a human presence on this world at some point in time. But what happened to end that presence until our arrival? Was it those things that killed Zeke? Or the people killing each other in some fit of madness? Death simply shook his head when I asked what had happened hours ago, saying Fate would reveal her plans soon enough.
It was not a comforting thought. Not in the slightest.
"Where is everyone?" Jack asks, appearing at my side as I walk ahead of Riddick, removing a few of the charms on the sled the further away I get, in case anyone besides Riddick handles anything about the sled. "What happened here?"
I look down at the boy, a pang of familiarity striking my heart. "I don't think I want to know," I inform him softly. He looks back into my eyes, and swallows nervously, and I know he thinks of Zeke's fate. "Jack, I want you to keep an eye on Ali, alright? And don't go into a building unless the door is open, okay?"
He nods easily. "Alright."
I give a relieved smile. "Go ahead and explore then," I order him, patting him on the back gently as he runs off to find the even younger boy.
Shazza comes over to me, and rests a hand on my shoulder. "Are you alright?" she asks quietly as we stand in the middle of the abandoned settlement.
I huff a humorless laugh. "I should be asking you that," I answer, looking anywhere but at her. "I'm sorry Shazza, I tried…"
She stops me with a gentle squeeze on my shoulder. "It wasn't your fault, I heard you, and I saw you in that hole. I can't blame you for anything," she assures me. "Now come on, I want to find out who abandoned this place."
I let her lead me about the various utilitarian buildings, finding dirt-encrusted clothes hanging on rusted wire clotheslines. Several abandoned toys lie buried in the dirt, revealed as solar powered robots as I dig them out and clean off the glass domes. I find even more broken handlights buried in various locations, mostly in a trail from the housing units leading to the coring room. But on a planet where even toys are solar powered, why would they need artificial light? And ones that were so expensive two decades ago for their long-lasting batteries and extra bright light?
"This isn't making any sense," Shazza murmurs. "The cost of these would mean they were in a hurry if they left them behind."
I nod slowly, dropping the broken device and rising. "Death said he was busy when we arrived, and he's never busy enough on a new planet to mention it."
She looks carefully around. "These buildings are used by prospectors for long term stays, and scientists." She pulls me along into another building, where we find a dozen rock samples with broken drilling equipment components. "Miners?" she asks with a frown. "All of this equipment is outdated… almost antique, I'd say."
I touch the unlabeled samples, layered with dust and dirt. "They were working when something happened. Something big that caused an emergency." I look over to Shazza, whose eyes almost reflect fear. "Didn't Carolyn say something about a skiff?"
"Yeah, she said the power cells had been drained, but it should be functional with a few patches and new power cells," she informs me, pulling me away from the lab bench after looking around a little more. "Let's go see if there's anything else."
I keep an eye on the Minx as she wanders about the place with the widow, but stay away so Johns won't give me a headache over my interest in her. This place has me on edge, more than usual, because we know there's something on this planet worse than me. I haven't killed anyone yet, and they've already killed one of the survivors. I'm itching to investigate, to find out why I want to run and not look back, but until Johns tells me to check things out, I can't look around.
I get my signal from Johns, so I wander away from his gaze as the widow comes over to the skiff. I catch a glimpse of that small figure and follow quietly, finding the biggest building covered in tarps and covered in dents and scratches. As she kneels in the dirt, picking up a pair of glasses, I slip behind her and wrap an arm around her waist and take the object of her attention before she can drop it.
She startles, yelping before she realizes its just Big Bad Riddick, and elbows me in the gut, making me chuckle darkly in her ear. "Damn it, Richard! You about gave me a heart attack!" she cries in exasperation.
I pull her closer, and I can see her face heating up. "So just what have you found out about these folks?" I murmur into her ear.
She leans back into my grasp after a moment. "Something happened, something they didn't anticipate. They dropped expensive lights, but didn't take the time to pick them up again, and all of them lead to a trail straight to this building." She turns her head to look up at me slightly. "Solar powered toys, no artificial lights inside the buildings; they relied on the suns for all of their light, but something scared them. They left pictures behind, clothes on the lines, toys and lights abandoned in a panic." She frowns then. "What happened with the skiff?"
"It was prepped for an emergency, and the power cells were dead, even the auxiliary power was gone," I answer quietly, hearing the slight shifting of Jack and Ali under the tarps to my left. "These people didn't make it off-world."
I let go of her as she breathes a deep sigh. "It makes sense… but where are the bodies then?" she asks just as quietly.
I stalk towards the heavy doors, and pull at them. "Locked from the inside," I murmur in surprise. "They tried keeping something out, but locked themselves in instead."