River and Kaylee end up on the ship that crashes on the monster-filled planet in Pitch Black. River must keep Kaylee safe, keep her identity secret from Johns, explore her attraction to Riddick, oh, yeah, and NOT get eaten in the process.
The torches, maxed out, burnt non-stop.
Iman and Suleiman stood with the sled chain on, both strapped and ready, sipping on the rest of their O-2, with hand-lights shining on their backs.
Fry was in the front of the group, an umbrella torch in her hand, looking nervous as the clicking around them grew louder.
Jack rolled under the upturned sled, becoming a turtle in a metal carapace. She’d been giving a little hand-light that lit beneath the dark sled just in case one of the creatures tried to swing one of their blades at her from the undersides.
Shazza was positioned on the left side of the sled, umbrella torch in one hand and Johns’ shotgun in the next, looking so uncomfortable with the large thing everyone realized she wouldn’t be much use with the clunky thing.
River, who held the last cutting torch, had smiled at Shazza and offered a trade, which the elder woman smiled thankfully and took the small, light pistol, passing the smaller, petite girl the Big Gauge.
Kaylee went to the rear and stood there with River, holding the cutting torch so that Johns and Riddick would have some light on them, and so the younger girl could get a good grip on the shotgun and be able to concentrate on just shooting the Hun dan creatures that got too close to the mercernary and the murderer.
Riddick smirked as he looked River over.
With torn clothes, bandages, and the professional way she held the shotgun, she looked like she’d been through war and was ready for a ravishment--which he’d give her--once they were off this gorram planet.
Riddick, having no desire to see what horrors would surround them, had put on his goggles. There was only one path anyway: straight ahead.
“As fast as you can.” He ordered those in front of him.
Kaylee frowned in worry, looking back at Johns and him strapped to the heavy power cells. “You sure you two can--?”
“As fast as you can.” Riddick repeated, leaving no room for discussion.
The mechanic nodded and took in a deep breath, obviously summoning courage for what they were about to do.
“Let’s do this!” Fry ordered from the front.
“I wonder if she would always be in such a hurry if she had to drag anything.” Johns murmured in complaint as they began to run as fast as they could, dragging the heavy power cells behind them, following the others.
Riddick smirked, having wondered the same thing.
Suleiman and Iman moved well as a team, dragging the sled with Jack speed-crawling beneath, her hand-light betraying a presence beneath yet protecting her at the same time.
Fry kept a couple of paces in front of the two Chrislams, umbrella torch held high in front of her, leading them through the den of hungry creatures.
Shazza swung her umbrella torch around the sled, trying to protect herself and both sides at the same time. Dark eyes on the shadows around them she kept a strong hold on the pistol. So far she hadn’t had to use it, and everyone was very glad about that.
Kaylee was in the rear of the sled, keeping light on River, herself, and on Riddick and Johns. She held the cutting torch up with her uninjured arm, and kept sending Riddick and Johns quick glances over her shoulder to make sure that they were keeping up and relatively covered by the light.
River was running backwards, ignoring the mercenary and the murderer, eyes behind them, ready to shoot anything that tried to jump them from behind. She looked like a tiger crouching in the shadows, ready to spring on its prey.
Riddick tried not to be distracted by how damned beautiful she looked backlit by the flame of the cutting torch.
Predators leaped from the rims of the canyon, circling above.
The hatchlings, young and foolish with hunger, streamed right for the survivor’s faces only to veer off at the last second, shrieking in pain as the flames charred their skin.
Feral sounds filled the air.
“Don’t look.” Riddick ordered, already figuring what was happening above.
Thin blue liquid spattered the fleeing survivors.
“Do not look up.” Riddick reinstated his previous order as more blue liquid splattered down on them.
Fry disobeyed, looking up into the sky and stumbling, gasping in horror. “Blood. Gou shi! It’s blood!”
Above them, fanning as far as the eye could see, was a ceiling of predators. At the cusp of light they dove and weaved and darted, slashing each other in a rabid desire to sound out the humans below. It was like looking at a bucket filled of angry eels.
“Keep going!” Shazza ordered harshly when Fry’s stumbling caused them to pause for a moment. “Better their blood than ours!”
Chastened, Fry kept her gaze down and sped up, once more leading them and keeping her attention on the path ahead.
“Keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going!” Riddick’s voice whipped them like the Devil’s coxswain, and apparently caused enough fear for Iman and Suleiman to speed up as well, and it took the mercenary and murderer an extra bout of energy to try and keep up with the fast runners ahead.
More blue blood rained down upon them, followed by entrails dropping from the sky.
“So dark the clouds around my way I cannot see,” Iman’s voice was heard singing the prayer shakily from the front. “But through the darkness I believe God leadeth me.” He stumbled suspiciously in the front and paused in his song, although he continued to pull the shed.
“I gladly place my hand in His when all is dim,” Suleiman continued from where his teacher had left off, finishing the prayer. “And closing my weary eyes, lean hard on him.”
Whole corpses began crashing down all around them, victims of the in-fighting occurring above.
Iman and Suleiman had to slalom through the ghastly mess and try keep up with Fry all at the same time.
Once again, Iman stumbled, but no one seemed to notice it, other than Riddick, but the murderer pushed it aside and concentrated on dragging the power cells and keeping up with Kaylee’s light.
In front of them the passage narrowed into a choke-point, and suddenly Fry stopped.
He looked up, annoyed at her for stopping their course once more, but kept from snapping at the blonde when he realized what had caused the halt this time.
“Wo de ma he ta de fen kuang de wai sheng dou!” Johns cursed when he looked up and noticed as well.
Ahead, a clot of dead predators blocked the canyon.
“What?” Jack’s nervous voice could be heard asking from beneath the sled. “What is it?”
“It’s a fucking staircase!” Riddick snapped at them, pissed that they were all so scared of a bunch of dead predators when they should be more frightened of the live ones above them. “Go over it! GO OVER IT!”
Steeling themselves, they began the climb. Kaylee seemed to want to close her eyes tightly yet was forcing them open as they climbed over the bodies of the slaughtered predators, and River kept sending quick glances backwards to make sure she didn’t step on anything that could slice open her bare feet.
Suddenly there was a cry as some corpses crumbled and Jack tumbled out from out of the sled, sliding past Kaylee and would have collided with Johns if River’s hand hadn’t shot out and grabbed the young girl’s wrist, halting her rapid descent down the mountain of predator corpses.
“Jack!” Shazza called out as she realized what’s happened.
Suleiman stopped his ascent and turned to look back in worry.
River’s eyes were above them. “Get back under!” she ordered before giving the girl a jerk in the right direction.
Riddick looked up, wondering what had River’s attention when the Predator swooped by, kamikazying onto the sled, its bone-blades piercing the metal.
Jack screamed once more from where she was hidden beneath the sled.
A shot rang through the air and the predator screamed, collapsing dead on the sled, forcing it completely down, trapping Jack inside.
“Jack?!” Kaylee cried out. “Jack?! Are you okay?!”
“Y-yes.” Came a trembling voice from inside.
Smoke arose from the end of the shotgun as River quickly passed it to a stunned Kaylee and pulled out her sharp hunting boomerang. “Hold onto the sled tightly.” She ordered Iman and Suleiman before pushing the predator away. It was still connected with the sled, pulling it back, and the Chrislams grunted as they kept a hold on the sled.
With the boomerang River sawed off the predator’s blade sticking into the sled and watched with detachment as the dead creature tumbled down the hill of its siblings’ corpses.
The young woman then put back the hunting boomerang and grabbed the shotgun from Kaylee. She froze and looked behind them once more, eyes moving rapidly in the darkness before they closed tightly and she aimed blindly, three shots firing into the night.
Right behind Riddick and Johns three shrieks filled the air as the silent predators fell to the ground from where they’d been about to pounce on the unsuspecting murderer and mercenary from behind.
“Keep moving!” River screamed, jolting everyone from their stunned stances into continuing their trek up the mountain of corpses.
As they made it over the top of the corpses and began their quick descent, Riddick couldn’t help but smirk as he replayed the last events quickly over in his head and decided that he was going to keep her.
Kaylee wanted to cry out in happiness when finally…FINALLY…the canyon widened, opening up like some door to Heaven. As the horrible sounds fell behind them, Kaylee looked upon the sweat-sheened faces of the survivors and recognizes the same faint hope in their expressions that she knew was showing on her own face.
They’d just survived the Seventh Circle of Hell. Maybe, maybe they would actually survive this.
But right as she thought that, the torches began to spit and sputter…
…and an odd patter was heard against the metal of the sled.
Blood fell anew, in overwhelming quantities.
One torch died yet thankfully somehow came back to life.
River stopped dead and held out her palm, collecting the colorless blood in her hand, going pale.
“No, no, no, no!” Fry screamed from in front.
Kaylee didn’t understand. What was going on?
“It’s rain…” Shazza’s voice was choked.
Kaylee wanted to cry, she wanted to scream and shout, yet kept all her emotions in check. It wouldn’t be fair to Jack if she let the child realize how fucked they were right now.
“Get moving!” Riddick ordered from behind them, and they hurriedly did as told.
Rain fell from the heaven with such fury it remind Kaylee of the story Sheppard Book had told her about while he was on Serenity, the story about a flood that covered the whole earth. The water soaked them to their bones, flowing over the rocks and the ground, making it a slippery journey for them…as if they needed more complications!
They continued to run, slipping and sliding on the mud, until they were forced to stop. The umbrella torch Shazza held died and wouldn’t relight. She moved back next to Kaylee.
“So where the hell’s God now, huh?” The question was obviously aimed at Iman, who refused to answer the barb, yet Riddick continued on anyway in his harsh, deadly, and extremely pissed voice. “I’ll tell you where He is! He’s up there PISSING ON ME!”
“Riddick?” Fry called from in front. “How close?”
The murderer shed his goggles and looked around in the darkness.
Kaylee prayed to every deity that luck was on their side.
“Tell me the settlement’s right there!” Fry ordered in a desperate voice. “RIDDICK, PLEASE!”
The words that escape Riddick’s mouth chilled Kaylee’s blood.
“We can’t make it.”
“Hao yun bu lai, huai yun bu jwo!” Johns muttered under his breath.
“We can make it.” River announced, causing everyone to look up at her. “Just not all of us…not together.”
“What are you talking about, daughter?” Iman asked, his voice seemed pained, as were the features of his face.
“Together we are large, they find us easier, and they scent your blood.” River was speaking slowly, purposely, obviously trying to make sense for them to understand her. “Wolf, fox and this girl can make it to the skiff and bring the light to your darkness.”
Kaylee looked up, understanding what she was saying. “You want us to hide and wait for you to return.”
“How do we know you three won’t just leave us here to be bait so you can just escape?” Fry demanded as she drew closer.
“This girl would never leave the sun behind.” River told Fry, eyes narrowed, obviously reading her thoughts and not liking them.
Kaylee put a calming hand on River’s shoulder. “I know you wouldn’t leave me, River, I trust you.”
“Well, I say I should be the one to go with Riddick and Johns.” Fry announced, voice filled with authority.
“The canary is pretty, and knows how to fly,” River announced testily. “But she is prey, not a predator.”
Shazza stepped forwards. “River’s right. She should be da one ta go with ‘em.”
“What?!” Fry turned on the other woman.
“The girl’s proven she can shoot.” Shazza turned to their self-proclaimed leader. “She can keep ‘em safe ‘til they get to the skiff and come back ta get us.”
“They aren’t coming back you Ben Dan!” Fry cried in desperation. “Why would they risk themselves and come back for us when they are safe and sound in the skiff?!”
The Australian shook her head at the pilot, eyes narrowed. “Because not everyone would risk da lives of everyone else’s just ta save their own skin.”
Fry took a step back, looking as if she’d been slapped.
Behind them, the awful sounds returned.
“Wanna make up yer minds?!” Johns snapped.
Iman looked around. “Where would we hide?”
Riddick looked around them in silence before getting out of his harness and disappearing into the darkness. Moments passed in silence before he spoke. “Get your asses here now.”
Surprised, everyone hurried towards where his voice was, and were surprised to see the crevice he’d found in the canyon’s wall.
“The kids first.” Riddick ordered.
Suleiman helped Jack out from under the sled and into the darkness of the crevice before joining the young girl.
“Inside…inside…” Riddick sounded impatient, and Shazza, Fry and Iman hurried in as well.
“I’ll come back.” River told Kaylee, eyes boring into hers.
“I know.” Throwing her arms around the younger girl, Kaylee hugged her tightly. “Be careful Mei-Mei.” Feeling River nod, Kaylee let go and ran into the darkness with the others and watched as Johns and Riddick lifted the shield, muscling it slowly over to the crevice before sliding it over the opening.
The cutting torch Kaylee had given Shazza before hugging River sputtered and died, leaving them in darkness within the deep, dark crevice.
“They’re coming back, right?” Jack asked with a tremble from where she sat next to Suleiman, who was sitting straight, eyes closed, lips moving wordlessly in what Kaylee could only guess was a prayer.
“’Course they are.” Shazza reached over and squeezed the girl’s hand. “They’re gonna come back ta get us an’ we’re getting’ off this gorram planet.”
Fry made a snort of disgust from where she sat closest to the entrance.
Kaylee shot her a glare before turning to Iman when she heard his deep intake of breath. “Iman?” She asked, placing a hand on his arm. “Are you alright?” Before he could answer she noticed the dark liquid that covered his leg and cried out in horror. “You’re hurt!”
“I--.” But Iman couldn’t react fast enough to keep Kaylee from jerking up his pants leg, she’d done just that, revealing an ugly gash in the skin above his ankle.
“When did this happen?” Kaylee gasped. “And why didn’t you say anything?”
The sound of tearing caught her attention and she turned in time to see Shazza tearing at the stomach of her shirt and passing the cloth to Kaylee for a bandage.
“Thank you.” The mechanic gave the other woman a small smile before beginning to bandage the bleeding limb.
“One caught me before we got to the mountain of unclean bodies.” Iman admitted sheepishly as the young girl tended to him. “But I did not wish to burden anyone with the knowledge.”
“Badly done preacher.” Kaylee chastised softly, finishing bandaging the wound and wincing when she noticed his blood already beginning to tint it dark red. “When we get rescued we’re taking you right to a doctor if’n the bleeding doesn’t stop.”
“Allah has predestined all of our lives,” Iman announced slowly when she pulled away and sat down once more. “If it is my time to die, then I accept that and will go happily, knowing that Suleiman is alive and well and my family name will live on through him.”
Kaylee paused, blinking. Turning to look at the handsome young boy who’d finished his prayer and was listening to something Jack whispered softly to him, her gaze retuned to Iman. “Is Suleiman your son?”
The holy man lowered his head. “Ali, Hasan and Suleiman were all my sons. They’d been abandoned by their respective parents and I took them in, adopted them, and while I want like any parent to be angry at Allah for allowing their lives to end at such a young age and in such a violent way, I know that is was His will for a good reason, and in the years to come I will see how their deaths served the greater good.”
Kaylee wiped at a tear that fell down her cheek as she listened to him. She couldn’t understand that feeling, that faith.
She looked up at his pained face…
Weren’t they supposed to be in the darkness?!
“There’s light in here.” She whispered, looking around them and noticing the soft glowing above.
Iman tried to stand but fell back down when he tried putting weight on his injured leg.
Suleiman, seeing Iman’s distress, stood instead and grabbed onto the rocky side of the crevice, climbing slowly upwards to discover blue-white lights clinging to rocks. He plucked a few and looked at them as the glowed in his open palm.
“What are they?” Fry asked, standing as well and looking up at him.
Suleiman chuckled as the lights seemed to wriggle in his palms. “Larva.”
“Glow worms?” Jack asked, intrigue in her voice as she stood up as well, brushing off her rear.
“Catch.” Suleiman looked down at her and smiled, letting one of the larvae drop down into her hands.
“Wow…” Jack whispered as everyone circled around her to get a better look at the odd creature glowing in her palms.
“How many bottles we got?” Shazza asked Fry’s favorite question. “Empty ones?”
There was a small beep that caused everyone to jerk and look around them…all except Kaylee…who knew where the beep had come from…
…The sole of her heel.
The mechanic couldn’t keep the smile off of her face.
Serenity was almost there.
With it just being the three of them, River, Riddick and Johns had made it to the skiff rapidly and with few attacks from the creatures. The young woman looked out in the darkness, putting the shotgun down on the ground as Riddick and Johns connected the power cells to the skiff.
Suddenly the skiff came to life and lit up, bathing them in its saving wonder.
Standing in the hatchway, drenched in light, she looked out into the dark rain. As soon as they finished fixing the skiff they’d go back and bring the others then they’d be off the planet and would meet Serenity in the air.
She could feel her brother’s worry.
And never before had she been so happy to feel Simon’s constant worry.
It meant he was near!
The skiff’s engine purred to life and began to warm up, readying for the take-off that would be their salvation.
“Git in.” Johns ordered. “We’ve gotta close the hatchway.”
River frowned as she turned to him. “The others--.”
“Are as good as dead.” Johns announced from where he stood, the shotgun in his hand. “Now git inside so we can be off before we’re dead too.”
“Not leaving until we have the others.” River narrowed her eyes at him, unable to believe that he truly would leave the others to be torn apart. Johns hadn’t been programmed by the Academy to be an unfeeling beast, so what excuse did he have?
“Hey Riddick!” He laughed at her before looking behind him at Riddick, who strolled pass leisurely. “She actually meant it when she said she’d go back.”
“Not a smart move.” Riddick announced in an indifferent voice, leaning against the skiff’s wall, folding his arms over his chest, watching her intently.
A feeling of dread and betrayal stabbed at River, yet despite the fact that her body begged for her to express her pain with tears, she kept her eyes dry and her expression cold. “We’re not leaving without Kaylee and the others.”
“Listen, princess,” Johns announced with a sneer. “Your little friend is pretty but not pretty enough to get me to go back out there.”
“Then wait, here, safe,” she spat the last word out, glad when he bristled angrily at her. “I’ll go get the sun and the bleeders.”
Johns pushed away from the wall and slowly went towards her, tsking. “You’re mistaking us for people who actually give a fuck for anyone other than ourselves.”
River’s eyes narrowed and her foot shot out, connecting with his jaw and sending him flying backwards violently, but before she could advance on him, Johns had reacted and had the shotgun pointed at her, halting her advance.
“Definitely not a smart move.” Riddick commented from where he stood.
River ignored him, hate-filled eyes focused solely on Johns.
“Now, princess, that wasn’t very nice of you.” Johns mocked as he stood, moving his jaw slightly with a wince. “This skiff isn’t big enough for all of us. It won’t take off with the ‘mount of people hiding back there.”
“There are puppies back there.” Didn’t he understand that?!
“Puppies?” Johns scowled, looking at the murderer for a second in confusion.
“She’s talkin’ ‘bout the kids.” Riddick supplied, still watching them with detached interest.
“Oh, OH.” Johns snorted, turning his attention back on the seething female. “Yes, well, this is like the jungle princess. Only the best, the strongest, survive.”
“Then why are you still here?” River snapped.
His eyes flared his rage as her insult hit home hard. “I wanted you ta come along but looks like that won’t be happenin’.” Johns glared, pumping the shotgun and aiming, readying to shot. “You shoulda listened ta Riddick when he was warnin’ ya about smart moves.”
“Oh,” Riddick’s voice was dark velvet. “I wasn’t talking to her.”
Johns’ turned in confusion towards the murderer in time to feel searing pain in his wrist and drop the shotgun. Sinking to his knees, the blonde grabbed at his arm, bone-shiv stuck deep within the middle of his wrist. “He chu-sheng za-jiao de zang-huo!”
River blinked, surprised at the change of events and more than a little confused.
Riddick pushed away from the wall and leisurely walked to the shotgun and kicked it away from the mercenary. He went to the blonde and grabbed hold of the handle of the shiv, and goggles met furious blue orbs as he pulled it up and out, slicing off half of his wrist.
Johns screamed and clutched his wrist tighter as blood spurted out crazily.
Wiping the shiv on Johns’ shirt, cleaning it of his own blood, Riddick placed it back in its hiding place in his clothes and turned, going towards the shotgun.
Picking it up, the murderer aimed it at the vividly cursing mercenary. “I was warning you that it wasn’t a smart move to threaten my woman.”
River continued to blink, feeling incredibly stupid.
“Remember that moment?” Riddick asked Johns, who was bleeding profusely from his open wrist.
It hit River hard from behind, causing her to fall hard on her feet, eyes wide.
Circling the crevice, it looks up and down, glad that its brethren have yet to notice what it has. Blood. A lot of it…coming from deep within the crevice.
It circles around, before landing before the metal and sniffing around the edges, mouth salivating as the blood within reminds it of how the taste of human flesh is so much nicer than that of the others of its own kind.
Human flesh is so soft, seems to melt in the mouth.
With that in mind it claws at the metal that blocks it from its food, and hears the gasps from within.
More than one human?
Oh! The feast it will have!
It hisses when a light from within touches its skin, and it jumps back, burnt. The light will burn it if exposed, yet it is sure that if it is able to pull away the metal and quickly grab the one bleeding, the burn will be worth it…
River gasped, desperate for the air her lungs lacked, as she was released from the vision and looked up into Riddick’s dark goggles. He once more had a grip on her upper arm, bringing her back to the present, anchoring her to reality, and smoothening the transition.
Without thinking she threw herself at him, pressing her face into his chest, his mere presence driving away the demons as he held her close while her body shook violently and she felt as if she’d be sick.
For a moment, for a brief instance, she’d been one with the creature, seen as it’d seen, sensed the stomach-clenching hunger that drove it to feast the way its kind did.
“We must leave.” She whispered against Riddick’s chest. “The sun is in danger of eclipsing.”
“It’s crazy to go back out there.” Riddick told her in a flat voice, his chin resting on the crown of her head.
“This girl has never been accused of being sane.”
He chuckled darkly, deep within his throat, the chuckle reverberating throughout his body, shaking her slightly as well, and she bathed in the feeling and sound for a moment before taking in a deep breath and pulling away, looking behind them to see that Johns was still alive and glaring up hatefully at them.
“The wolf let the fox live?”
“Gotta save bullets.” Riddick announced before pulling two hand-lights that he’d found in the skiff and passing one to her.
She smiled up at him before throwing her arms around his neck and bringing his face down to hers, lips crashing in a kiss very different from the one she’d given him half an hour ago.
Heat rose from her stomach as he wrapped her in his arms and pressed her fully against him, losing herself in him, in his heat, in his desire.
Blushing, River pulled away and cleared her throat, pulling out her hunting boomerang. “Let’s go.”
Riddick smirked at the choked sound in her voice before nodding and turning to look over his shoulder at Johns. “I wouldn’t try to steal and fly this skiff while we’re gone if I were you.” His smirk grew darker. “Not that you can do anything with your hand only hanging together by a thin slice of skin.”
“Fuck you Trash Baby!” Johns spat venomously from where he was on his knees, clutching the bleeding remains of his wrist.
“Not my type, Johns,” Riddick chuckled as, with one hand at the small of River’s back, he led her out into the shadows. “Not my type.”
Hey everyone! We’re almost there at the end! A coupla chapters more! How did you like this chapter?
Lol. The Chinese have the funniest curses! I find the last one mentioned here (He chu-sheng za-jiao de zang-huo) one of the funniest I’ve heard so far! Every time I imagine someone screaming that to someone else in English I just break up laughing.
Wo de ma he ta de fen kuang de wai sheng dou: Mother of God and all her crazy nephews
Hao yun bu lai, huai yun bu jwo : Good luck don't come, bad luck don't leave
Ben Dan: Idiot
He chu-sheng za-jiao de zang-huo: Filthy fornicator of livestock!
Bandaging his wrist had proved more painful than the gorram wound itself, but Johns knew that he had to stop the blood from flowing so freely or the others would come to find he dead on the skiff and kick his body out for the land-sharks to snack upon.
Why the hell had he chosen trim instead of the obviously choice of safety?
Sure, the gal was beautiful, but she looked inexperienced and was probably a virgin anyhows!
Growling, the mercenary dragged himself onto the pilot’s seat and engaged the take-off sequence. He mightn’t be able to pilot much, but he knew damned well how to chart a travel plan in the Cortex board and engage auto pilot.
He’d leave those gorram people and Riddick would be sorry he hadn’t ghosted him when he had the chance.
“Is it just me, or does the fact that this planet supposedly doesn’t exist--like Miranda--bother you, sir?” Zoë Washburne asked, hands clasped behind her back, legs separated slightly and placed firmly on the ground as they looked at the planet M6-117, the planet that Kaylee’s tracking device said she was on, the planet that supposedly didn’t exist.
“’Course it bothers me.” Captain Malcolm Reynolds announced, hunched over the computer graph of the planet, his gut feeling telling him something wasn’t right. “As does the fact that it’s supposed to be uninhabited but the thermal scanners are picking up an army-worth of heat signatures.”
“’N they ain’t human.” Jayne Cobb, the large mercenary, announced from where he stood behind Zoë. He didn’t know much about anything that didn’t have to do with weapons and tracking--his expertise--but he knew those figures the thermal scanner was picking up weren’t human.
“What are my mei-mei and bao-bei going through?” Simon Tam, the ship’s doctor and River’s brother, asked from where he sat by the image, looking pale and worn. While he was usually the picture of properness, never once leaving his room with a wrinkled shirt, he now looked like a disaster with dark bags under his eyes and he had yet to change his clothes since they’d realized that they’d been separated from his girlfriend and sister.
“Now, don’tcha be gettin’ your knickers in a twist Doc,” Mal announced somewhat awkwardly, the Doc and he had a tentative relationship at best--they only tolerated each other because of their love for Kaylee and River--yet he felt that as captain he had to look after his crew, even if it was Simon. “Your sister has proven herself to be more’n capable of takin’ care of herself and we all know she’ll take care of lil’ Kaylee if’n they’re in trouble.”
“Yes, I know she would take care of Kaylee.” Simon was tense, and his voice quivered with a mixture of anger and distress. “But who will take care of River? While she’s been doing much better ever since Miranda, she’s still a mentally unstable girl who needs my supervision and care. She needs her medication. She’s never been this long without them!” He ran his hands through his hair, blood-shot eyes wide-open. “What if she has a relapse? What if she has a fit and--?”
“You don’t give moonbrain ‘nuff credit, Doc.” Jayne’s rough voice caused everyone to look at him with eyes wide in surprise. The relationship between River and the mercenary had never been quite stable--she had stabbed him and he’d tried to betray her to the Alliance--so his defense of her was astonishing. “Sure, da girl’s feng le, but she’s been doin’ better, ‘n she’s never let anything keep ‘er from keepin’ Kaylee safe before.”
Zoë sent the large mercenary a small smile.
Simon blinked, looking up at Jayne in silence before giving him a small, thankful smile. “Thank you Jayne, you are right.”
“’Course I’m right.” The mercenary snorted. “You might be one of the ‘most gifted people in da universe’, but ya ain’t gotta lick of common sense—‘specialy when it comes to that feng le sister of yours.”
Simon frowned. “That’s what I get for listening to the ape-man.”
Jayne glared at the doctor, making a pass for Vera, his favorite gun.
“Now, now, play nice children.” Mal shook his head at his doctor and hired-guns. “You two can start threatenin’ each other with guns and sharp surgical tools after we save the girls from whatever problem they’ve gotten themselves into this time.”
“The captain’s right.” Zoë frowned disapprovingly at the two men in the room. “Our priority is discovering what exactly is on that planet, if it is a threat, and how to eliminate it before we reach M6-117—which we’ll be doing soon.”
Simon hung his head. “You’re right.”
Jayne snorted, yet didn’t dare contradict the ex-soldier.
“From the tracking image I’m guessing they crashed here, and the small trail left by Kaylee says that they moved a great distance towards what would look like an abandoned settlement.” Zoë announced. “I say we land Serenity here.” She tapped a section of the graphic 3-D image. “It’s a nice open space close to the settlement, and I’m guessing it was a docking station while the planet was still inhabited.”
“A lil’ small, ain’t it?” Jayne winced and looked up at Mal.
River’s and Kaylee’s presences had been sorely missed, because not only was Serenity suffering from lack of Kaylee’s constant nurturing in the engine room, but Mal had taken over River’s duties as pilot--and everyone knew Mal wasn’t exactly the world’s best pilot--‘specially when entering Atmo or landing.
Mal noticed his hired-guns’ expression and bristled, insulted. “I’ll have ya know that I’m an excellent pilot! I just haven’t had much practice-wise since River’s a great pilot and Wash would pilot before her! I’m a lil’ rusty is all!”
“Of course you are sir.” Zoë announced loyally.
Simon snorted from where he had his forehead against the table.
Mal glared at the doctor.
“Sure ya are.” Jayne chuckled. “You just keep tellin’ yourself that cap’n.”
Mal glared at the mercenary.
Zoë did her best to keep her face straight and not smile.
“No respect,” Mal announced melodramatically as he looked at his crewmembers. “I get no respect!”
There was more scrabbling at the sled keeping them safe from what hid in the darkness outside. Kaylee closed her eyes and wished over and over again for River, Riddick and Johns to have gotten to the skiff, gotten it sky-friendly, and come back for them.
A creature had been trying time and time again to get in at them. Obviously it was drawn by Iman’s and Jack’s bleeding--and probably it could smell the blood on the cloth around her now closed wound.
Shazza had forced Iman and Jack to the back of the group, and stood in front, pistol held shakily in her hands as she kept it aimed at the sled in case the creature decided to risk the light they’d gotten from filling two empty liquor bottles with all the glow worms they could find.
Suleiman stood in front of Jack, holding Iman’s ceremonial dagger by the blade, ready to use it to pierce whatever beast made it passed the shield the sled provided.
The shield gave way and slid to the side, but before Shazza could shoot or Suleiman let his dagger fly, River stepped into the light of the cave with Riddick behind her, both looking slightly bruised yet alive and well all the same.
Jack’s eyes widened and tears filled her vision. “You came back…”
“Mei-Mei!” Kaylee cried and she pushed out passed Suleiman and Shazza and threw herself into the younger girl’s arms, hugging her tightly. “I was so worried! I thought you’d been hurt!”
“Where’s Johns?” Iman asked, noticing that the blonde wasn’t with them and that Riddick was holding the Big Gauge.
River tensed. “The fox wanted to leave the chickens to the dogs, but the wolf and the girl protested and caught the fox’s paw in a hunter’s snare.”
There was confused silence before Kaylee pulled away, horrified and angry. “He was going to leave us?”
“The hun dan!” Jack exclaimed in anger, and then her eyes went wide at the looks she received. “What?!”
“I can’t believe you two came back.” Fry announced with surprise obvious on her face.
“Yeah, yeah--.” Riddick finally spoke up, sounding impatient and somewhat annoyed. “We’re all fuckin’ amazed. Anyone not ready for this?”
Protected by the meager light of two bottles of glow-worms and two hand-lights, the group slowly made their way out of the crevice, going slower than they would have liked due to the fact that Iman now couldn’t stand on his injured foot. Shazza and Suleiman had grabbed hold of him and were helping him along as they made their way into the darkness.
“Tighter, tighter…” Riddick ordered in a soft voice from where he was a couple of steps in front of the group, goggles off, moving as silently as the night itself.
The group instinctively obeyed, moving in as tightly as they could with Jack and Iman in the middle.
River trailed behind, holding up the rear to make sure that they weren’t attacked from behind.
Hearing Riddick’s voice they piled up awkwardly, listening yet hearing nothing but rainfall.
Fry, as always, had to speak. “I don’t hear--.” She gave a little cry when River wrapped her hand over her mouth, silencing her.
While the psychic assassin couldn’t exactly see where the predator was, she could sense it close by, and didn’t want them getting caught with bleeding people just because the blonde couldn’t keep her mouth shut.
They were only lucky that they were downwind from the predators in the area, and that the downpour also helped cover their scent, thus the creatures hadn’t picked up on the fact that bleeding humans were out in the open.
“Doesn’t see us…wait till it leaves…” Riddick whispered under his breath.
River shivered as she felt another predator fly overhead and land where the first predator could be heard lapping at water. Obviously a pool of water from the rain had gathered and the predators had taken to going there to drink.
The young woman shivered as she felt more predators congregating.
Soon faint clicking could be heard by the others above the rain.
“Get behind me.”
No one even seemed to think of disobeying, and all hurried behind their new leader.
“Hold hands.” Riddick spoke urgently. “When I say go, we go. Full-throttle.”
Everyone nodded rapidly, and Kaylee reached for River’s hand.
River gave it a little squeeze, finally getting the hang of this comforting thing.
Riddick took off, and the others, linked like paper dolls, followed blindly.
They hit the water like lawn-movers on legs, crashing through, scattering water and unsuspecting predators alike, managing to reach the muddy rise, starting a frantic ascent.
The mud beneath Jack’s feet gave way and she screamed, dropping to the ground and beginning a sharp descent as the rain suddenly stopped.
Riddick’s arm shot out and grabbed her arm, letting go of Fry as the blonde (who’d been given the pistol), turned and fired at the creature that’d appeared in front of them.
Muscling Jack up the muddy ascent once more, Riddick heaved her over the top and sent her sliding down the slippery other side.
The hunting boomerang shot out and sliced through a predator that’d been about to bring its scythe-blades down on Riddick while the murderer had been busy helping Jack. The sharp silver weapon spun in the air, surprisingly enough cutting through another predator that’d flown up before returning to River.
“You know the way!” Riddick ordered the others as he pumped Johns’ shotgun and shot at the predators regrouping and attacking them, bloodlust sending them wild now that they’d had a chance to realize that more than one of the humans were bleeding.
“River?” Kaylee cried out as the others turned and ran away.
“Go!” River ordered and turned her back on the mechanic, flinging out the hunting boomerang once more.
The mechanic looked torn yet did as told, disappearing down the other side of the muddy rise.
Screeches and gunshots filled the air, and the moment the hunting boomerang returned to her hand, River felt the other one grabbed by Riddick as he jerked her around and began a hurried descent, dragging her behind him as the creatures shrieked behind them, hungry and on their trail.
River looked up at the light in the settlement and couldn’t help but think that it looked brighter than when they’d left, but didn’t have much time to think about that as a predator lunged at her from the side. Tightening her hold on the sharp boomerang, she sliced its face open, not once stopping or slowing down.
They reached the settlement and hurried towards the light, knowing that safety was only a couple of steps away, yet as they stopped in their tracks, frozen by what they saw.
The skiff was a couple of meters away from where they’d left it, and it was in flames.
Riddick reacted quicker and pulled River closer towards the fire and light. “Damned Johns!”
Fry, Shazza, Iman, Kaylee and Suleiman were as close to the wreckage as they could without getting burnt by the heat. Iman sat on the ground, eyes closed, moving back and forwards in prayer. Fry was cursing the wind while Suleiman looked somewhat awkward, patting Jack’s back as the girl cried into his chest.
Shazza and Kaylee looked up when they spotted Riddick and River, relief obvious in their faces as they hurried to them.
“You’re okay!” Kaylee once more flew into River’s arms, hugging her tightly, bursting into tears. “Don’t ever make me leave you again! Don’t you dare make me choose your life or mine like that again! You could have been killed--!”
River didn’t understand what she’d done wrong. She’d protected Kaylee. Wasn’t that what she was supposed to do? Why was Kaylee so mad and sad?
“You’re not gonna get all mushy on me, right?” Riddick made a face at Shazza.
The Australian threw her head back and laughed despite the circumstances before playfully punching his shoulder. “Not happenin’ in this lifetime.”
“Good.” He honestly looked relieved.
“What the ruttin’ hell happened here?!” Fry turned her anger on them, stalking towards them. “Why did you bring us here if the skiff was crashed?!”
“Well, we decided that since the skiff was crashed we would leave the nice warm fire and risk getting killed again to bring all you to the nice little bonfire too since we were all going to die anyhow we should at least do so warm.” Riddick deadpanned.
Suleiman looked up from where he was still awkwardly trying to comfort Jack. “The mercenary must have tried to steal the skiff while they were looking for us and crashed.”
“The selfish hundan!” Kaylee muttered angrily against River’s neck as she continued to cry.
“I told him not to try to steal the skiff,” Riddick shook his head, pulling his goggles back on as the light from the fire hurt his eyes. He then pulled out something from his pocket. It looked like a little chip. “He just didn’t listen.”
Fry frowned when she realized what he had in his hand. “That’s the auto pilot chip.”
Riddick nodded. “Couldn’t fly worth shit, ‘n all chances of him being able ta do so were cut when I tore off the hundan’s hand.” He said, referring to the deceased and obviously cremated mercenary. “While he was tryin’ to convince River to leave all of you behind I took this out just in case he tried to pull a fast one on us.”
“Which, obviously he did.” Iman’s voice was dead.
Jack pulled her head up from where she’d been crying into Suleiman’s chest and blinked, teary eyes on Riddick. “You tore his hand off?”
“Sliced it.” River corrected mechanically from where she was still awkwardly trying to comfort Kaylee and wondering what the world she’d done wrong this time since she was sure what she’d done had been the correct thing. “Bone-shiv. Ripped through the bone and tendons with one long, clean slice. Very painful.”
Iman began saying his prayers once more.
Kaylee began to cry once more.
Suleiman seemed unaffected.
Jack was silent before nodding curtly in approval. “Good.”
Hearing the clicking around them, everyone rushed closer to the fire, looking around them, bodies tense, each trying to see into the shadows yet not being able to.
Iman’s screaming caused them to turn around in time to see that an adult predator had braved the burn of the light to sink its blade deep within the holy man’s thigh and hurriedly dragged him back out into the darkness.
Suleiman screamed out something in Arabic and would have run out to Iman and the retreating predator if Jack hadn’t tightened her grip around his waist and kept him with her bodily.
Tearing the pistol from Fry’s frozen hands, Shazza whipped around and fired round after round, the first two shots missing completely and disappearing into the darkness around the predator before the next connected with it’s shoulder and the other pierced the blade connecting it to its victim.
The creature shrieked and reared back, trying desperately to drag Iman out of sight.
The last bullet in Riddick’s weapon, the Big Gauge, echoed throughout the night before the creature’s chest apparently exploded with the impact.
“Get him into the light!” Riddick ordered, tearing the pistol from Shazza and firing into the darkness around Iman as predators only the murderer could see tried to get to the holy man.
Shazza and River nodded to each other as River made Kaylee let go and began running into the darkness towards the man praying fervently in his mother language.
As they reached him, the pistol in Riddick’s hand clicked empty and he cursed as the women and Iman were left in the darkness without any backup against the predators circling around.
“Move, move, move, move!” He ordered.
Each woman grabbed hold of Iman’s arms and began pulling him back frantically towards the light, trying to ignore the furious clicking all around them.
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil,” Iman whispered to himself fiercely. “For Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me…”
The clicking stopped, and cold dread filled River as, with her connection to the planet, she felt the air give resistance to the blade flying violently towards her back.
She screamed when a hand grabbed her by her arm and pulled her out of the way right in time to see the blade whish right in front of her, barely missing her. River looked up at Riddick, who pushed her behind him.
“Get back into the fuckin’ light!” He snapped as the predator turned its attention on him.
Although worried, River nodded and Shazza and her continued to drag Iman; fear giving them the adrenaline to pull him faster.
Spinning in the air, the creature plunged violently at Riddick, scythe-blade outstretched. In the flash of an eye the murderer reached out and caught the beast under the scythe-blade, blunting the attack.
The predator clicked furiously at him before it reared its head back, readying to bisect the amazingly strong human with its skull-head.
Switchblade fast, Riddick dropped his hand and yanked out his shiv and with a fluid movement swept it over the belly of the beast, tearing it open.
Howling in agony, the predator fell, disemboweled.
River and Shazza were still trying to drag Iman when Riddick stomped towards them and grabbed River, pushing her forwards towards the light before grabbing Iman by the collar and dragging the injured man back into the light with a couple of long strides.
Everyone looked at Riddick in surprise, everyone other than River that was, who just smiled up at him in both thanks and admiration. She’d known he was her equal, knew she’d finally found the other half of her, yet his being able to kill the creature with his hands and a primitive weapon only proved it further.
“H—how--?” Fry stammered from where she stood as Jack finally let go of Suleiman, who rushed towards Iman’s side and fell to his knees, crying and saying something rapidly in Arabic. “H-h-how?”
“Fucker didn’t know I don’t like anyone touchin’ what’s mine.” Riddick announced, turning, grabbing River by the shoulders and shaking her roughly. “What the fuck happened out there? You sensed it and you froze! Next time something’s trying to kill you and you sense it you fuckin’ move, you hear me?!”
“The girl was programmed not to leave partners behind while on a mission.” She replied softly, not frightened of his scowl or showing pain at the way his fingers dug painfully into her or reacting to his violent shaking. He was worried about her, he’d been terrified for a split second before rage took over and he’d confronted the beast.
She smiled up at him.
Riddick looked down at her and shook his head, voice a sure threat. “You do something feng le like that again and the darkness will put you over its knee.”
She giggled, knowing she was exasperating him more but couldn’t help but love the fact that he was speaking her language again.
There was a dreamy sigh to her right that sounded suspiciously like Kaylee.
“How are you doing, Iman?” Fry asked as she pushed passed Riddick and River, jostling them, and went to stand in front of the injured man, as Shazza used the material Suleiman had torn off of his clothes to try and make a compress to stop the bleeding.
“I--I--.” Iman’s eyes widened in horror.
“Grim!” River gasped as she felt it and looked up in time to see a predator swooped down from above, its blade protruding through Fry’s back and stomach.
Everything played through in seconds, yet it seemed like a lifetime as everyone watched in horror as a shocked Fry placed her hands on the blade running through her stomach and looked at them in understanding before the creature shrieked at the light and shot back up into the darkness, taking the pilot with it.
“Fry!” Jack screamed, crumbling to her knees, safest of them all as she was the closet to the flames.
“Everyone down!” Riddick ordered as another predator swooped down yet shrieked at the light on its skin and flew away. “As close to the fire as possible! NOW!”
Shazza and Kaylee stumbled to pull Iman closer to the fire with Suleiman’s help, all the while keeping to the ground.
Riddick pulled River behind him and she allowed him to keep her in the warmed and protected with his body around hers as they all huddled together close to the flames.
“We’re all going to die.” Jack whimpered and Kaylee crawled towards her, pulling the crying girl into her arms, planting a kiss on the top of her head of short hair and holding her in a protective embrace.
River closed her eyes as she sensed the creatures all around them, heard the furious clicking as the predators tried over and over again to swoop at them yet couldn’t because they were too close to the light.
Feeling them congregating hungrily around, ready to attack altogether, River closed her eyes and buried her face into Riddick’s chest.
Suddenly light rained down on them from the heavens, and the swarming predators shrieked in pain at the bright light, darting away frantically.
The survivors, who’d been ready to face their fate, blinked, looking around them and then upwards at the blinding light.
River smiled, keeping her eyes closed tight. “It’s raining light.”
“SERENITY!” Kaylee screamed in delight. “They’re here! We’ve saved!” She then winced when the class Firefly ship had a somewhat rough landing close to them, always keeping the light shining on the group of survivors. “Hmmm. The captain must be piloting.”
Riddick watched as the cargo doors opened and more light shone in the darkness as three people hurried out, keeping to the light, and fully armed with gun that had flashlights attached to the scopes.
The one in the front was a man with messy brown hair and a long brown coat.
To his left was a big mountain of a man who was armed to the teeth.
And to his right was a caramel-skinned woman whose body screamed military. She probably had been a soldier some time in the past, probably during the Unification War, and if the brown coats both she and the man in front war had anything to say about their allegiance, they’d been on the losing side.
“River? Kaylee?” Someone rushed down from the cargo hold. He looked completely different from the others and screamed CORE, most probably a rich kid. He had no weapons.
“Simon!” Kaylee screamed as she let go of Jack and ran through the path of light, passed the three armed ones, and went straight into the arms of the well dressed one.
River looked up and tore herself from Riddick’s protective grasp, following Kaylee’s example and ignoring the armed ones before rushing into the younger man’s arms.
The man in the brown coat turned to the woman next to him. “It’s amazing how much love I’m feeling right now.”
The woman smirked. “Right you are, sir.”
The big mountain of a man ignored them and addressed the survivors. “Ya’ll gonna git your asses here or ya’ll only gonna gap?”
Riddick frowned as he stood up. He didn’t like being told what to do.
Shazza and Suleiman quickly helped Iman up, and with Jack’s help, took him hurriedly to the class firefly ship and safely into the Cargo Hold.
Riddick followed at a leisurely pace, goggles back on and reminding himself that the man now holding and kissing his woman was her brother. No need to ghost him.
The armed ones followed them from behind and once they were all safely within the Cargo Hold, the big giant of a man hit a lever and the door closed.
A blur of color was all that River was to the normal human eye as she pulled out of her brother’s arms and…flew right into the arms of the man in the brown coat.
“Captain!” She cried happily, arms around his neck, drawing herself against him.
“Lil’ albatross…” The man, obviously the captain River had spoken of with such open adoration, gave her a smile too tender for Riddick’s liking before hugging her to him, placing a soft kiss on her forehead. “You okay?”
“I knew you would come for us.” She told him fervently.
The man’s smile grew even tenderer. “’Course I would…” Hearing a banging against the metal of the Cargo Hold’s door, he pulled away reluctantly. “So, how about you flyin’ us outta here ‘fore those creatures tear my ship apart?”
“Yes sir!” Giving him a quick peck on his cheek and beaming up at him, River turned heel and raced up the catwalk and away, passing Simon, Kaylee, Shazza, Suleiman and Jack, who were taking Iman to the infirmary.
The Captain beamed after River before turning to the woman and the mountain of a man behind him. “Now you see--that’s how you’re supposed to treat your captain.”
The big man snorted. “Ain’t kissin’ ya Mal. Ya ain’t my type.”
‘Mal’ glared at him. “You know gorram well that I weren’t talkin’ ‘bout the kiss!”
Riddick left them and slowly followed the scent of River up the catwalk and through a darkened hallway as he felt the class firefly ship lift gracefully from the ground, much different from the way it’d landed.
The faceless bastard he was going to kill now had a face…
…and an appointment with Grim tonight when the lights went out and everyone was asleep.