DISCLAIMER THINGY:

Still don't own much... Suppose I ought to admit that I (fairly obviously) don't own the 138 gorgeous words of this chapter, which are from John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men". And the chapter title is, of course, from Queen's immortal "Bohemian Rhapsody".


The road winding through the mountains was bumpy and potholed. Flies circled around one small, long-dead roadkill, and ants swarmed over a rusting crushed beer can at the edge of the road. On one side, cliffs rose to snow-topped mountains; on the other side, the ground was flat and open, with a muddy river flowing nearly parallel to the road, and patches of snow scattered in clumps of tussock grass. Across the open patch, in the distance, another even higher row of mountains loomed, white down to the ground, an impassable wall except for one gap, only just wide enough to be seen from the road.

For a moment, the place was lifeless, and then two men emerged from around a bend and came strolling along the road. Both were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass buttons. Both wore black, shapeless hats and both carried tight blanket rolls slung over their shoulders. The first man was small and quick, dark of face, with restless eyes and sharp, strong features. Ever part of him was defined: small, strong hands, slender arms, a thin and bony nose. Behind him walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes, with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely and only moved because the heavy hands were pendula. They were talking quite loudly, and their appearance and voices startled a bird out of a tree.

"But why didn't you let me have no ketchup on my beans?" the second larger man demanded.

"I awready tol' ya, Lennie!" the first man exclaimed with an exasperated sigh. "'Cause that other guy wanted it."

"But we was there firs', George!" Lennie argued. "Why'd you jes' give it to that guy?"

"'Cause 'that guy' had 'iron fist' tattooed across his knuckles, a nail through his nose an' 'Darkside 4 Lyf' on his jacket." There was a pause, and then George added "Gloria Jeans' ketchup don't taste no good anyways." Lennie pouted, and they continued in silence for a while, until he caught sight of something by the side of the road some way ahead.

"Look up there, George!" he said excitedly, pointing. George had already seen, though, and shielded his eyes with his hand as he squinted to see. The indistinct shape was bright against the brown of the wide, flat land, yellow and blue, and when they got a little closer, Lennie almost squealed

"A rabbit, George!"

"No he ain't," said George. "He's an earthperson."

The earthperson was sitting huddled by the side of the road, leaning with his back against a boulder. He didn't appear to notice them at first as they approached, until they were about two metres away, when he glanced up and watched the two men expressionlessly. He looked like he had been in a fight fairly recently - he had bruises on his legs and a black eye that "Darkside" guy would have been proud of - he appeared wearier than even George had ever been in his life, and there was a crumpled blue blanket by his side. After scrutinizing the two of them, he must have convinced himself that they were really there, as he said slowly

"N-need to g-g-get help..." He was shivering, and George knelt down in front of him while Lennie stood watching, fascinated.

"There ain't no-one for miles," George said to the earthperson. "Who you wanna get help for?"

"C-crashed," the earthperson stammered. "Six-...fifteen...n-no - fourteen. Betty got st-stabbed..." He shook his head miserably and looked down.

"A crash?" George repeated. "But they went an' called the search off yesterday!"

"Wh-why? We're still there! N-no-one's going to help?"

"Look, we're goin' to a ranch-"

"Like we done before!" Lennie interrupted, but George ignored him.

"Should be there by tonigh'. Lennie gone an' los' the phone, so you come with us an' we'll call from there. Awrigh'?" The earthperson nodded, and as George and Lennie helped him to his feet, they thought they had rarely seen someone so relieved.

...

Vedhix, kneeling in the snow beside Tybalt's lifeless body, didn't seem to have heard, but the deep whirring rumble had now grown loud enough so that Keren couldn't believe it might not be there. Her eyes searched the clear, blue sky as her ears tried to work out what direction it might be coming from. Around her, no-one was saying anything. Could they too have heard it? Or could they just be silent because of what had just happened, afraid to say anything in case Vedhix lashed out at them?

What's that noise, 'Du wondered. She was about to look up and see if she could see anything, when she remembered the last time...the last false alarm. She certainly didn't want to be the one to get everyone's hopes up for no reason this time, so instead of turning her face skywards, she turned it sideways to shoot another filthy look at Keren.

Random noise, Claire thought to herself. Doesn't sound like an avalanche. Random.

When the fight had begun, Bri had taken the opportunity to slip inside, stick a certain pair of white earphones in her ears and switch on the iPod. The music wasn't entirely to her taste, but the feeling of cold metal and plastic in her ears, with sound only she could hear blocking out the world was comforting. It wasn't her own poor pod, but it helped. As the delicate pizzicato strings sound of "The Time of the Turning" faded out, Bri stole a peek around the corner, but the group were standing in the way of her seeing whatever was happening between Vedhix and Tybalt, so she pulled her head quickly back out of sight. Just as she was about to check what song had come on, she hesitated. She could hear something - a low rumble that grew quickly to a roar...the roar of airplane propellors! And then a man's voice bellowed out, but it took Bri a second or two to register what it was saying.

"Pink! Get Pink! Son? Get away-" She hit the "skip" button rather more viciously than she had intended, and immediately felt guilty - but at least the airplane noise from the song had stopped. A check of the iPod's screen told her the next track was another Pink Floyd one - "Shine On, You Crazy Diamond". Quiet synthesizers...and that noise was there again, only faintly this time, but still whirring in the background somewhere. This time, she paused the song - and the noise continued! She yanked the earphones out of her ears, shoved the pod in her pocket without even bothering to turn it off, and raced outside.

There was no doubt now that everyone had heard the noise, even though still nothing had been said aloud. It didn't seem necessary to say anything, as they were all looking in the same direction: out towards where there was a gap in the enclosing mountain range, where the sound seemed to be coming from. Keren hardly dared even blink in case she missed seeing what she hardly dared hope for in case it turned out to not be true. Suddenly, it was there - three dark shapes in the air, heading towards them. They were moving quite quickly, but to the group with their eyes fixed on them, they seemed to be approaching in slow motion. Now they were clearer - three helicopters, heading straight for them, and when they were close enough to see the outlines of the pilots, the group's realization of what was happening that they had kept pent up inside as they waited for this moment crashed over them all at once, and there were hardly words to express it. They were rescued! Somehow...they couldn't imagine how...they had been found, and they were going to go home!

Jack removed his hat and waved it, for all the world like he was signalling a passing ship from a desert island; Cilla screeched something at the helicopters; Ham grinned, showing all her teeth to a startled Claire who was too excited for even the word "random"; and 'Du found herself suddenly crushed in a bear-hug from Keren, which she returned gladly.


THE END

By Aietradaea


Well, that's it. End of an era. 6 months, 20 days in the writing (200 days); 29,404 words; 16 chapters & 15 song lyrics; 18 different characters making an appearance. Ideas that didn't make the cut included Bri killing Ion; Keren physically beating up 'Du; and 'Du duelling with Craig.

There's a couple more ideas currently shelved for something else in a similar vein, but those could be a while in coming. Hope you enjoyed this one, in the meantime - and do feel free to leave your comments! :)