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.
River was used to being the one taken care of. During the year that Simon had rescued her from the Academy he’d never left her side, but not only had she been separated from Simon and the other crew of Serenity, but Kaylee and her had had to duck into the first ship they’d found--trying to avoid the Blue Hands and the Alliance--and before either girl knew what had happened they were in cryosleep.
And now, as River stretched and narrowed her eyes at the glare of the planet in which their ship had crashed, she knew that it was her turn to care for the girl she suspected her brother had a future with.
It was a daunting challenge, especially since the planet whispered cries of pain and death in her ear. She shivered yet was glad that Kaylee hadn’t noticed it, it wouldn’t do to frighten the girl and tell her that this planet had just as many secrets as Miranda.
They’d only left the planet a month ago, and instead of a good vacation, they’d just barely escaped capture and survived a crash on a foreign, unknown planet.
“Capt’n will find us,” Kaylee kept saying as she rubbed her arms. “Simon will find us.”
River didn’t acknowledge that, knowing that whatever she said wouldn’t be reassuring. That was what Simon would do; he’d hold her close and tell her that everything was fine, that he would take care of her.
Dark eyes fell on the disheveled survivors as her mind assessed them, immediately searching for potential dangers, as she’d been programmed to do.
There was a dark man who was dressed weirdly. She’d once seen another dressed this way in one of the ports, and when she’d asked why he dressed so oddly, Simon had explained that he was a Hoodoo holy man, so the young woman guessed that this man was a holy man as well, and the three young boys with him were his apprentices.
She didn’t sense any danger from him and his charges, and proceeded to dismiss them from her mind immediately.
There was the Australian couple who looked lean and fit from obvious psychical work. The man looked a little iffy, but the woman had a hard glint in her eyes, the glint that said she wasn’t only pretty and could kick some ass if she wanted to. But still, neither were strong or intelligent enough to worry River.
Her unwavering gaze rested on a shorter, skinny man with wire-framed glasses. Just the thought of him lifting a rock, much less a gun, looked enough to hurt him and she shook her head with a smirk.
Definitely no danger there.
“Anyone else having breathing problems?” The tiny man asked in a strained voice. “Other than me?”
“I do.” Kaylee spoke before she remembered that they were supposed to keep a low profile so that their risk of being identified as the crew of the notorious Serenity would be minimal.
“I feel like my lungs were bashed in.” The young boy wheezed, proving that Kaylee and the other man weren’t the only ones suffering.
“Too much pressure in the atmosphere…Not enough oxygen.” River announced with such surety no one seemed to even think to question how she knew it, but they all looked uneasy at her words.
“We have enough oxygen to breathe with, that’s what matters. And we’ll be acclimatized in a couple of days.” That was said by the blonde docking pilot that everyone were praising for having ‘saved’ them.
River scoffed and shook her head in disgust. If the people wanted someone to thank it should be the navigator who’d died. If it hadn’t been for his intervention, this blonde would have killed them all to save herself.
While River had contempt for someone so ready to sacrifice the lives of others just to give herself a second more of life, River had no other problem with her. The blonde whom everyone had silently put as leader wasn’t worth her attention for now.
There was, of course, the young boy that just struck River as odd. Something about the boy seemed off, but other than that he proved no imminent threat, so the young assassin shook off the questions in her head about him.
“Are you alright, ladies?” A handsome blonde, blue-eyed man asked, giving them a concerned smile.
Kaylee looked up at him and blushed slightly. “Y-Yes, thank you.”
“The name’s Johns, William J. Johns.” He gave Kaylee a lopsided grin. “But everyone just calls me Johns.”
“Kaywinnit Lee Frye.” Giving him a smile, Kaylee shook his hand, oblivious to his blinking at her long name. “But everyone just calls me Kaylee.”
Johns turned to River. “And what would your name be?”
She frowned at him, looking deep into those blue eyes and trying to read him, surprised when she couldn’t. When the Academy had cut open her brain and taken away all her Amygdala, they’d created a reader and weapon so great they feared and wanted her all at the same time.
Usually voices and memories and people’s thoughts plagued her, but Johns was horribly silent.
“She’s River!” Kaylee hugged River’s arm, smiling weakly, trying to distract Johns from her friend. “M—my cousin! River Frye!”
River heard Kaylee’s worries at that the law enforcer would recognize River for who she was. The Alliance was still looking for her despite the fact that she’d already let out their biggest secret--that they’d created the cannibalistic Reavers while experimenting with the drug Pax on the planet Miranda.
“Pleasure.” Johns’ smile was filled with charm…
…and River narrowed her eyes further at him.
Now this one gave her the chills, just like the Blue Hands did.
This one she was going to keep a good eye on.
“What were you two lovely young ladies doing on the ship?” Johns asked, giving River one long, piercing look before turning his smile on Kaylee.
“We have a grandmother we never met before.” Kaylee hurriedly announced. “Apparently she died and left us an inheritance so we were going to see if there was anything we could collect.” She smiled the smile that River knew captivated most men. “And you?”
Johns was silent for a moment before motioning them to follow him. “I was taking a convict to a maximum security slam.”
River remembered the presence she’d felt, the purely animalistic scent that’d bathed her the moment she’d awoken after the crash, and silently allowed Kaylee to lead her to the crash site until they came upon him.
Kaylee gasped, obviously horrified to see a tall, muscular man cuffed to a pole, with a bit in his mouth and blindfolded. “That’s inhumane!” she cried, turning to Johns.
The law enforcer shook his head. “Well, miss Frye, considering that he’s an animal that doesn’t matter.” Seeing the tears in her eyes, he hurried on to explain. “That’s Richard B. Riddick, the man’s a serial killer--killed more innocents than one knows how to count. He’s an animal and a monster, and already tried to escape once we crashed. I just barely got to him on time. It’s thanks to that that we will be able to sleep tonight without worry that he’ll come back to the camp and slit all of our throats.”
“No night for the weary, no shadow to cool from the heat.” River said in a soft voice, eyes on this Riddick. “Hotter by three, each day swallowed by the next, time stands still and the brief passing of night is death.”
Kaylee looked worried. Not only didn’t she want Johns to realize that River could see things, but what River had just said sounded ominous.
Johns turned to look at River once more, silently, before chuckling. “Night is death? Are you afraid of the dark, Ms. Frye?”
Her dark eyes connected with his blue ones. “You should be.”
He looked at her for a moment before cracking a smile and turning to Kaylee, asking something, but River didn’t notice it. Her attention was once more on Riddick. He was listening to them, that much was obvious in the tension in his muscles and the way he tilted his head slightly in their direction.
When she tried to read him she came up against a mental wall, barring her from his thoughts. She was immediately impressed, never had she been flung out of someone’s mind with such strength. Only someone with years of extensive training could have managed to do that.
It only added to the mystery that was Richard B. Riddick.
Going up towards him, River ignored Johns’ call for her to get away from the prisoner, that he was dangerous. She slowly circled the man with his hands cuffed behind his back and around a pole of steel, assessing him, mind overloading with the threat and power he emitted.
Vaguely she realized that he followed her movement, sniffing slightly, as if trying to catch her scent.
That intrigued her.
He made a sound low in his throat that might have been a growl, but with the bit in his mouth River couldn’t tell for sure.
In a movement that surprised even her, River’s hands shot out and trailed over the hard muscles of his bound arms.
Instantly images assailed her.
“Destruction, horror, pain, screams.” She whispered so softly she barely heard herself. “Babies in trashcans with their umbilical cords wrapped around their throats, they are in pain, suffocating, wanting to know why their lives are ending so cruelly when they should just be beginning to live.”
The muscles beneath her tensed further, as more images and feelings entered her.
“Their last moments the fear and sadness is gone, replaced by anger, by fury.” She paused before gasping the one word that’d been screamed at her throughout her entire vision. “Furyan.” Pulling her hand away she moved back as Riddick threw himself at her viciously, yet was restrained by the handcuffs.
“I said get away.” Johns grabbed her arm and jerked her away. “Caged animals are not for little princesses to play with.”
She frowned at the hand he had on her. “I am not a princess and he is not an animal. He is a warrior.”
“He’s a murderer, darling.” Johns let go of her, realizing that she wouldn’t stop glaring at his skin against hers. “Come, let me lead you two ladies out of here.” He turned his back on her and strode over to where Kaylee had been watching with trepidation.
River gave one look back at Riddick, who had calmed down yet was sniffing her once again. “There’s a gap higher up that pole. Quite a foolish place to restrain a murderer. With one pop, he’s free.” She offered the information in a soft whisper before going to Kaylee’s side and leaving the Furyan there to choose whether to believe her and act on her information or not.
Safe and hidden, Riddick frowned.
Who was the woman whose scent had captivated his animal, spoken things of his past which he’d never told anyone, and helped him escape?
She was all sorts of crazy, her speech told him that in itself, but he found it somewhat intriguing, considering that she’d practically predicted that he’d dislocate his shoulders and get free from the pole (One pop and he’s free).
He watched from a safe distance as the other survivors mulled around. Johns, the blonde docking pilot, and two young women left the wreckage with what seemed like a very irate little man and…was that booze?
Riddick shook his head and continued to watch the women. He knew for a fact that the blonde wasn’t his little mystery girl—he’d heard her voice and it was nothing like the one whose voice gave him goose bumps of pleasure.
There was also another woman, but she was there with her lump of a husband, and he’d heard her accent. It sounded like one of the accents of people who’d used to live on Earth-That-Was.
So that left him with two alternatives…
…Two very pretty alternatives.
One had dark honored curls and a bounce to her walk, despite the fact that she clung to her friend both protectively and seeking protection. The contrast intrigued him, especially since the other girl seemed so frail she couldn’t defend herself from a horsefly.
His goggled eyes landed on the other girl, with midnight black hair, a long black dress that swayed in the breeze, and a walk so confident she seemed unaffected at the fact that they’d just survived a near fatal accident.
Riddick heard Johns sound the alarm when he discovered him gone, and the convict couldn’t help but smirk as the blonde looked around him frantically, knowing that Riddick was there somewhere watching him, gloating.
The smirk disappeared though when Riddick returned his gaze to the girls and his eyes connected with the dark pools of the dark haired girl.
She was looking right at him!
And yet, not.
A small smile lit her face, before she turned away from him and spoke to her friend, who looked nervous yet doing her best to hide it.
His inner animal wanted to get closer to her, scent her again.
And not for the first time he was in complete agreement with it.
Just how to do it?
Sometimes having been experimented on proved a blessing, like it did now. While everyone else were faint of breath her lungs were capable of taking in whatever oxygen was present in the air and distributing it so evenly she didn’t feel the chest aches and shortness of breaths the others felt.
After news of Riddick’s escape leaked out, the passengers had gone into an uproar, all so terrified, their thoughts and worries screamed so loudly into her head River had had to leave the group until they’d calmed down or gotten busy collecting anything from the wreckage that could be used as weapons.
Of course, this effort had been led by William J. Johns, who at the end of the search took an inventory of what they had. His contribution to the ‘Keep Ourselves Safe From Riddick’ pile were a shotgun, a pistol and a baton.
Shazza and her husband Zeke offered up their pick-ax, digging tools and a hunting boomerang that River was just itching to get her hands on.
Iman pulled out a ceremonial blade, yet kept it with him at all times, letting them understand that he was protecting his students and himself.
River stood behind Frye and took a swig of the alcohol Paris had reluctantly contributed. Although she knew that it would dehydrate her more than she already was, the young assassin took yet another mouthful of the odd tasting liquid before passing it to Kaylee.
The dark haired girl couldn’t help but look at the others and wonder if they really thought those weapons were going to be any good against Riddick. If he was half of what she’d sensed he was, then they were just playthings.
She knew she herself could easily disarm and disengage anyone who came at her with any of them, and she doubted that this Furyan in their midst was any different.
Sensing movement, she looked up and was the first to notice Paris straggling in with what she recognized to be antique curios.
Johns stole one from the skinny little man and looked at it with an eyebrow raised. “What the hell are these?”
“Maratha crow-bill war-picks from northern India.” The little man announced, pushing his glasses further up the bridge of his nose and taking the curio away from Johns carefully. “Very rare.”
“An’ this?” Zeke asked, pointing to another oddity.
“Blow-dart hunting stick from Papua New Guinea.” Paris announced, slapping away the hand Zeke had placed on said hunting stick. “Very very rare, since the tribe’s extinct.”
“’Cuz they couldn’t hunt shit with these things, be my guess.” Zeke announced dryly to his wife.
“Well, what’s the need anyway?” Paris glared at the larger man before turning on Johns, obviously annoyed that no one was giving his rare and hard to acquire antiques the respect and awe they deserved. “If he’s gone he’s gone. Why should he bother us?”
“First, because he can only live out there for so long,” Johns announced, eyeing his pistol thoughtfully. “He’s gonna come back and take what we’ve got. Second, for the sheer thrill of the kill.”
Kaylee whimpered and unconsciously moved closer to River, causing the thin girl to awkwardly place her hand around her shoulder like Simon did whenever comforting her.
It seemed to work, because Kaylee gave her a small smile, obviously feeling safer knowing that a weapon like River was taking care of her.
She ignored the fear of the others as they each reached for a weapon.
Johns, thankfully, had left them to go and stand on the ship, surveying the land and obviously trying to find Riddick. Both he and River knew that he wasn’t going to see the assassin--he was too smart to allow that.
Kaylee had rapidly made friends with everyone who’d survived, introducing everyone to River by name. Apparently her outgoing, friendly personality had charmed everyone, and they seemed to consider River the ‘shy one’, so they didn’t mind her lack of conversation.
While modifying breather units they’d found surprisingly enough intact in the wreckage, Shazza and Zeke told Kaylee stories about their homeland before it was destroyed and what their plans were once they arrived at their destination.
When the breather units were passed to those there, River took one because she’d read Kaylee’s worried thoughts of how to explain to the others why River didn’t need one if she was supposed to be ‘normal’, and the mechanic gave her a thankful smile when the assassin just took the mask and thanked Shazza.
Iman, the holy man, and his three students readied themselves to join the others in the search for both Riddick and water. Since the Chrislams didn’t drink alcohol, the four of them were suffering from thirst and ready to face the heat of the planet to find some suitable liquid to quench their parched throats.
Docking pilot, Carolyn Fry (Kaylee had been excited, wondering if the blonde could be some distant relative of hers), arrived from scouting the lands, obviously not caring that a ‘raging, bloodthirsty murderer’ was on the loose. “There are two suns.”
That caught everyone’s attention.
“Huh?” Jack, the young boy, vocalized their silent question.
“An orange one and a yellow one.”
“There’s another, a blue one. I saw it while on top of the ship.” Johns commented slowly as he joined them once more. “Three suns. No wonder there’s hardly any oxygen in the air.” His gaze slid to River. “That’s three times the normal heat.”
“My bloody oath…” Shazza cursed, wiping at the sweat accumulating on her forehead.
“Well, I don’t see him sneaking up on us during the night now.” Zeke told Johns, who’d mentioned that worry more than once.
“’No night for the weary’…” Johns once again quoted River, his intense blue eyes on her.
“So much for my cocktail hour.” Paris lamented.
Kaylee giggled at him, and even River smiled slightly despite Johns attention fully on her. The short man was proving to be entertainment.
Like Zeke, Iman found the three suns a reason to be optimistic. “We take this to be a good sign,” he proclaimed, hope shinning in his dark eyes. “A path, a direction from God. We will find what we seek.”
“A very good sign.” Johns agreed, tearing his eyes off of River and instead looking in the direction of the blue sun. “That’s Riddick’s direction. You do not wanna be caught in the dark with this guy.”
A frown crossed Fry’s face. “I thought you found his restraints over there.” She pointed in the direction of which she spoke. “Towards sunset.”
“I did.” Johns nodded. “Which means he went towards sunrise.”
“Okay then,” Fry straightened, taking in a deep breath. “Let’s go find the bastard.”
Zeke stepped forwards. “What, you goin’ off, too?”
River frowned. Normal people seemed quite dependant on those they saw as their leaders.
“Johns is leaving you a gun.” The blonde gave him a comforting smile. “Just do me a favor, huh? Get my crewies buried? They were good guys who died bad.”
Shazza stepped up and put a hand on her husband’s shoulder, a smile on her face. “A’course we will.”
“Thanks.” Fry smiled at them before hurrying after Johns, Iman and his boys, who were already beginning their journey to find Riddick, and hopefully, water.
River watched them going with a frown, before turning and going back into the ship with Kaylee and Jack behind her. The mechanic had made friends with the young boy traveling on his own, and had taken to him like a mother.
The assassin watched their interactions and laughter with her head tilted to the side, wondering how it was that Kaylee could make friends of everyone. Was such happiness normal? Or was River just so messed up from the experiments forced upon her she was the odd one to not be so friendly and outgoing—not to care about the welfare of anyone other than the few whom she’d grown protective of?
Shazza appeared, pick in hand as if expecting Riddick to jump out at her from any corner yet confident she could take him on if she had to. “We’ve decided that while the others are out there should be a watch out to make sure that bastard doesn’t sneak up on us while we’re divided.”
Kaylee looked up from where she’d been joking with Jack. “That sounds like a smart idea.”
Shazza smiled thankfully. “Zeke’s gone to burry the crew and Paris has decided to take the first watch.”
“Paris is our watch?” Jack asked, skepticism deep within his voice.
River snorted, looking at her dirty fingernails. “That was not a smart idea.”
“River!” Kaylee cried out.
Shazza, surprisingly enough, snorted in laughter. “Aye, I dunnae think it is either, but I’m keeping a watch on Paris.”
Jack went out, mischief in his gaze, and River watched him go with interest, wondering what he planned on doing but shaking her head, realizing that she had more important things to worry about.
Something about the planet wasn’t right. Like when on Miranda, voices seemed to call out to her, echoes of the dead cried out in pain, asking every deity to end their suffering, and for the first time in a long time, River felt in true danger. She’d taken the Reavers down without earning one scratch in the battle, but this planet gave her goose bumps.
The Alliance had had a hand in this planet as well. Like her, everything they’d ever touched had been destroyed. She could see the scars in the place as well as she could feel the scars in her brain from the many times it’d been cut up and stitched back together.
The ghosts of trees and flowers, the whispers of children’s laughter and the heady scent that Kaylee and Simon made whenever they joined together filled her nostrils, haunted her, told her that this planet had once been alive, a thriving place with animals and humans.
But it was now dead and forgotten—just like Miranda.
The coincidences were too unnerving.
Shivering despite the heat, River closed her eyes tightly and wished that Simon was there. Her brother would know what to do. He was the sane one out them, the one who’d had a normal childhood, who could think coherently, who always found a way to help her.
He’d risked his life, left behind his wealth and his future to save her, and now, as River heard Kaylee giggling at something Shazza was saying, she took in a deep breath, promising herself to save Kaylee because without the girl, Simon wouldn’t be happy. That would be her own way of paying Simon back for all he’d done for her.
Even if she didn’t make it off this planet alive, she’d make sure Kaylee did.
In the graveyard, Riddick had finished fashioning a shiv from one of the countless bones of the gigantic creatures that’d died there when he heard voices. He should have heard them before, but it was as if the bones were moaning in pain all around him, trying to say something, and they’d drowned out the other sounds.
That could have cost a lesser being on the run his life.
“Is this whole planet dead?” The captain asked, close by.
Riddick tilted his head towards her voice; they were close to him now.
One of the kids said something in rapid Arabic.
“He asks,” the Holy Man explained. “What could have killed so many great things?”
Riddick could have added ‘in such a violent way’ to that sentence. He’d surveyed the titanic skeletons tinted by green lichen the moment he’d come across the graveyard, also trying to discover why gigantic creatures like these would fall in such great numbers and with such ease.
He’d discovered razor-like teeth marks slicing into the bones.
So something had felled these giant beasts by the thousands, and due to the discoloration of the bones--they’d all been killed around the same time.
That, coupled with the fact that the whole planet in itself seemed dead, didn’t sit well with the murderer.
“Some…communal graveyard, perhaps.” The Holy Man announced, yet there were many questions in his voice. “Like the Elephants of Earth-That-Was.”
“Graveyards?” The captain was closer. “Or killing fields?”
Riddick smirked. She’d noticed the cut-marks, almost as if the bones had been hacked. She was beginning to redeem herself in his eyes.
“Long time ago.” The voice of the Blue-Eyed Devil, Johns, was next to the captain and the Holy Man, causing Riddick to move back into the shadows by instinct. “Whatever happened.”
Sensing movement coming towards him, Riddick pocketed the shiv he’d finished carving out of the bone and with a swift movement climbed up the skull of the creature he was in, hiding within the sinus cavity.
In seconds it would seem, one of the Chrislams appeared where he’d been only moments ago. The young boy looked around, obviously at ease and unaware that right above him lay certain death.
Riddick shook his head in disgust.
“Hey! What are you doing there?” Johns’ annoyed voice heralded his coming, and the tall, blonde man glared at the young Chrislam. “I said no one goes on his own! Now git!”
The young boy hurried out.
Johns went as if to follow him before he noticed the bone-chippings piled on the ground from where Riddick had been fashioning his shiv. The blonde pulled out his weapon in the blink of an eye and double-checked the shadows, probing with the muzzle of his gun.
Riddick couldn’t help but feel slightly insulted that Johns could think him capable of hiding in the most obvious of places.
After all this time chasing after Riddick, Johns should know him better by now.
Satisfied that his query wasn’t there (Riddick kept back a snort), Johns left to join the others.
Waiting until he couldn’t hear Johns anymore, Riddick dropped to the ground, his arms and hands now pierced with shards of boneyard ivory.
He wondered who else was with this little search party, and wondered if ‘Lil’ Crazy’ (as he’d come to think of her in his mind) was amongst them. If so, he wondered what the chances were of his capturing her and having a nice little chat before someone noticed.
Spotting a shadow on the combing, he drew near, wondering who would have separated from the group knowing that he was alone. As he drew nearer he recognized Carolyn Fry, the pilot.
Mild disappointment filled him as he stalked her silently from behind.
Another figure joined the blonde, and it proved to be Johns. He took a hit of scotch and offered her some.
Riddick smirked, wondering how far he could go and not have Johns realize that he was there.
“Probably makes it worse.” Fry announced, speaking about the bottle of scotch Johns offered her. “Dehydrates you even more.” Yet she took it from him.
“Probably right.” Johns announced in that laidback drawl of his.
They were silent, drinking away, never realizing he was right behind them, hidden in the skeleton. Fry, trying to escape the glare of the sun, leaned back against the combing bringing her within arms length of the predator behind.
Smirk growing dark, Riddick pulled out his freshly chiseled bone-shiv.
“You know, I woulda played road dog for these guys.” Johns said in a measured tone. “You could’ve stayed back. Pro’bly should’ve--because, you know, if we don’t find water…”
We may not make it back, hung between them.
“No, no, I wanted to get away.” Fry said a little too quickly for it not to sound suspicious.
“So I noticed.” Johns snorted, taking the bottle from her and having another hit of the throat burning liquid. “Never seen a ‘captain’ quite so ready to leave her ship.”
Riddick, bored with the conversation, eased his blade towards her neck.
As if sensing the danger behind her, Fry stepped away. “Better keep moving.”
“What did Owens mean? ‘Bout not touching the switch?”
Fry’s body froze, like a rabbit cornered by a hungered fox. She turned and looked at Johns as if wondering if she could trust him, before leaning back against the combing once again.
Riddick couldn’t help but find this all amusing. He was so close to the combing that they would be able to see him if they stopped their yapping and just turned the fuck around.
Johns, ever able to sense secrets, turned his ‘charming’ smile on the woman who obviously needed to talk. “Hey. You can tell me, Carolyn.”
Riddick held back a snort. We’ve crashed on this planet and he’s trying to secure a fuck.
“Promise me.” Her voice was soft, choking with emotion. “Swear to me you won’t--.”
“You see anybody else here?” Johns threw his hands up to emphasis how alone they were. “Just between you and me.”
And me…Riddick smirked.
“During the landing…when things were at their worst…” It was obviously hard for her to get it out. “Owens was at his best. He’s the one who wouldn’t let the captain dump the passenger cabin.”
Johns blinked, stunned. “Are you shittin’ me?!”
Trying again, Riddick reached out with his shiv and deftly sliced off some of Fry’s hair. He smirked and put it in his pocket to save for another time in which he could taunt Johns on how close he’d been and he hadn’t known.
“So, now you know.” Fry said in a soft voice, filled with self-recrimination, obviously waiting for Johns to scold her for what she’d have done if this Owens person hadn’t stopped her.
“Fuck.” Johns ran a hand through his hair in silence before finally turning to her. “Guess I’m more glad to be here than I thought.” He bent and placed the scotch bottle on the ground.
“I—the younger Frye girl, I—she—I think she knows.” Fry said in a soft, surprisingly frightened, voice.
Hearing the name that Johns had called Lil’ Crazy, Riddick sunk back into the shadows, too interested in learning more he didn’t dare get caught.
“River?” Johns asked, unknowingly giving Riddick the name of the female who’d stayed in his mind despite his attempts to throw her presence out.
Fry nodded. “I don’t think Kaylee knows, she thanked me like the others for ‘saving’ them.” She hugged her arms as if she were cold, which they knew she could never be in this heat. “But River, when the others had dispersed, came up to me and said—said.”
“What—what did she say?”
Riddick frowned. Why did Johns seem so interested in what the fragile little female had said to the pilot?
“She, it was so confusing but I know she knows.”
“What did she say?” Johns repeated, sounding a little impatient.
“She said something like…” Fry looked up, meeting his gaze. “…‘The prized canary sits in its golden cage, receiving praise for its enchanting song, famous and loved by all, yet the tiny bird looks away, a shadows in its eyes, for it knows of the record-player hidden beneath the table upon which its cage is placed’.”
Riddick blinked. What was crazier--the sentence in itself or the fact that he understood what Lil’ Crazy had meant with it?
“I--I also wanted to get away from her, so when they decided to stay at the crash site--.” Fry left her sentence to die.
Johns was silent for a long time, his eyes darkened before he looked up at he was the smiling blue-eyed devil that Riddick knew. “We should be going.”
The murderer watched them as they walked away and then looked down at the bottle of scotch they’d left behind. It had one good swallow to it.
Good one, Johns.
Realizing a trap when he saw one, Riddick shook his head. Why did Johns keep underestimating him?
Waiting until he couldn’t hear them, Riddick reached forwards and picked up the bottle, calculating how much scotch was in the bottle before throwing his head back and enjoying the first intake of liquid he’d had since the crash.
Quickly refilling the bottle with sand up to the point where it’d been filled with scotch moments before, he put it back and smirked.
In the distance, when Johns used his scope to check up on the bottle, the sand would make it look as if it hadn’t been touched.
Shaking his head at the blonde, Riddick began his journey back towards the wreckage. He had one extremely pretty crazy girl he wanted to keep his eye on. There was something about that girl that was familiar, and she seemed to have just as many secrets as he. And although Riddick never cared about anyone other than himself, this girl intrigued him.
Wondering why that name sounded off, he left the boneyard.
“Tell me that was you,” Paris glared at Jack as he hurried into the cargo-hold, gripping the war-pick in his hand so hard his knuckles were transparent.
From where he sat next to Kaylee, talking about what they would do once the others returned with water, Jack frowned. “Okay, it was me.” He then made face. “What exactly am I confessing to?”
Apparently more than glad to put all the blame on the young boy’s shoulders, Paris leaned against the wall. “Assailing my fragile sense of security, that’s what.”
Shazza stood from where she’d been going over the items they’d been able to salvage from the wreck. “What’re you goin’ on about?” She frowned. “He’s been right here for the last--.”
Then they all saw it: sunblades were momentarily blocked by something. Someone.
“Zeke?” Shazza called out in a soft probe, voice trembling slightly.
There was no answer.
River stood, frowning. She could hear the thoughts of their intruder, and they were jumbled into such incoherency it didn’t sound like a known dialect. The words entered one into the other, and all she could make was pain.
Jack sprung up and hurried to the other side of the hold, placing an eye to the crack there. He’d been going there throughout their wait to check up on Zeke’s progress because he could see where Shazza’s husband had gone to bury the dead crew members and give her updates on his security--since none of them quite trusted Paris as a watch out.
Kaylee gulped from where she’d stood up slightly behind River. “Is--is he still out there burying the others?” She asked Jack in a soft whisper.
Jack turned, face pale as he nodded.
Kaylee gave a little jump when they noticed more sunblades being disturbed. “It has to be Riddick.”
Paris went bloodless.
“The night wolf hasn’t the scent of burnt flesh and death surrounding him.” River turned to Kaylee, trying to comfort her with the realization that the person outside wasn’t Riddick.
She failed to notice Shazza grab the war-prick out of Paris’ frozen hands, moving cat-like towards the door and waiting there, ready to strike.
Jack gave River a confused look before valiantly going behind Shazza with the hunting boomerang in his hands.
River’s worry was directed to Kaylee, whose round eyes were following the sunblades that winked on and off, charting the newcomer’s approach. Hadn’t the mechanic of Serenity understood her when she’d said that the night wolf wasn’t the one outside?
Suddenly he appeared…
…And Shazza swung hard.
“NO!” Jack and Kaylee screamed at the same time.
Before them stood a total stranger, who was burnt, half naked, and one hand still clutching the emergency release lever of his cryo-locker.
Shazza had stopped one inch short of killing him.
River sensed Jack watching her silently.
“I thought…” The stranger’s voice was harsh from lack of water. “My God, I thought I was the only one who--.”
Pure joy at having found others filled his aura and he lurched towards Shazza, trying to embrace her. Suddenly there was a bang, and blood spurted over Shazza as the stranger fell bonelessly to the ground to reveal Zeke in the background, pistol leveled.
The other man looked up from the dead stranger on the ground to his wife’s blood-spattered face, and reading the horror there he suddenly realized his mistake.
“Oh Lord…” Paris whispered, sounding like he was going to faint any minute now.
“It was just somebody else…” Jack whispered, eyes wide in shock. “From the crash. He was just…”
Kaylee turned to River and shocked her stiff by throwing herself into her arms, crying desperately, body shaking so violently she seemed to be about o fall apart.
River once more awkwardly placed her arms around the other girl, wishing that Simon was here to do this. Simon always hugged Kaylee and held her close, kissing the top of her hair and whispering words that always seemed to calm the sensitive other girl.
River wished she knew what Simon—or any other normal person—would say to Kaylee to try and calm her down.
“Cripes galore,” Zeke’s voice was closer to them than it had been moments ago. “I thought it was him. The murderin’ ratbag. I thought it was…” He rushed towards the dead stranger.
I see I’ve made them jumpy.
That wasn’t her thought.
Looking up, River’s gaze connected with dark goggles in the background. Despite the fact that his eyes were hidden by the goggles she knew he was watching her, she felt the electric jolt that raced through her body and his.
Riddick picked up the breather unit Zeke had dropped when he’d hurried back to the hold, and before anyone else could realize he was there, disappeared.
River felt Kaylee’s sobs lessened and decided that her first priority for Simon’s Bao-Bei, so she pushed thoughts of Riddick, and the questions as to why she’d felt a jolt of electricity when there clearly wasn’t any around to the back of her mind, and concentrated on trying to make enough sense to help her friend.
They’d come upon an abandoned city, but while the others were busy looking around, and happy that they’d found water, Johns couldn’t get River Frye out of his mind.
A mercenary, and not a law enforcer as he’d led everyone to believe, Johns was good at remembering faces, and he was sure he’d seen River Frye’s face before.
He stayed next to the skiff Carolyn Fry had found, and kept an eye open for Riddick. The murderer was going to be his biggest paycheck yet--if he could stay alive and take the bastard to the prison waiting for him.
Fry exited the skiff. “No juice,” she announced, coming towards him. “Looks like it’s been laid up for years.” She paused. “But we might be able to adapt--.”
“Shut up.” Hearing something, Johns cocked his air to the wind, waiting, before finally shrugging it off. “Sorry. Thought I heard something.”
“Like what?” She obviously saw him as some ally and he would let her believe that for as long as he needed her around.
“Like my pistola.” Johns announced before turning to her. “The elder Frye girl, Kaylee? I heard her telling the kid Jack that she was a mechanic on board some ship.” He motioned with his chin towards the skiff. “If you need to ‘adapt’ anything, she’s probably the one you want doing it.”
Fry blinked. “That’s good to know. The moment we get back to camp I’ll take her aside and talk to her myself.”
“You do that.” Johns kept back a sly smile. And while you’re keeping her entertained I’ll have a little chat with pretty lil’ River and figure out where I know her from.
“We are visiting Miranda’s sister,” River announced in her soft, whimsical voice. “She doesn’t like visitors and will soon set her dogs upon us.”
Kaylee, the only one to hear her, looked up with wide eyes. She’d stopped crying some moments ago yet was still shaking. “M-M-Miranda’s sister?” She hissed in a soft voice, once more blanching as she took an involuntary step towards her. “The Alliance has a hand in this too?”
River nodded. “The dogs were tame. Tiny Chihuahuas that were brought here and made into raging Great Danes which thirst for blood and wait in the belly of the sister.”
Kaylee didn’t know much about dogs, after Earth-That-Was was destroyed much of the animals had gone extinct. But she did remember from some books that Chihuahuas were supposed to be small and Great Danes were—well—great.
But she couldn’t bet her life on her interpretation of River’s words.
She hardly ever understood what River said--Mal and Simon always used to, and she hated not having tried better before. River was obviously trying to tell her something important and she knew she was missing much of the graveness and importance.
She obviously got that the Alliance had come and experimented on this planet like they had with Miranda. But what had they made? Had they created the Cannibalistic Reavers from the unknowing citizens like on the planet that still gave Kaylee nightmares--or had they created something else?
How had River put it?
‘Dogs that wait in the belly of the Sister’?
What did that mean?
Kaylee sat back down and didn’t notice River getting up and following Zeke out of the cargo hold as he left to bury the newest body.
The mechanic closed her eyes and tried to keep from shaking and crying. She was afraid and she missed everyone so badly. She missed Serenity, the ship was like her home, and she felt connected to it, felt as if it were truly alive and she knew it needed her just as much as she needed it.
Captain Malcolm Reynolds had become like an older brother to her. He took care of her, was protective when it came to Simon, making sure the Doctor treated her well and never looked down on her despite the fact that Simon and River came from up-to-do parents and Kaylee was just a lowly Mechanic—not that Simon would ever treat Kaylee badly. Mal was just protective that way.
Zoe and Jayne were also like family. They’d gotten together after Zoe’s husband Wash had been killed on Miranda, but both were keeping their relationship secret and only Kaylee and River knew of the fact that they shared rooms at night--Kaylee because she’d caught them in the act and River, well, because River seemed to know everything that happened on Serenity.
Inara was living off of the ship and on yet another planet. While Kaylee had always wished deep within her heart for her best friend and the man she loved as a brother to finally get together, the Companion wouldn’t give up her job for Mal, and the Captain wouldn’t give up Serenity for Inara…
Kaylee closed her eyes tighter as she thought of Simon, her Bao-Bei--her sweetheart--the love of her life, the man who’d taught her more about love and passion than she could have ever guessed. He refined her and she helped roughen him up a bit so he wouldn’t stand out so much in the crew. He wasn’t the spoiled rich kid anymore with fancy clothes and a snotty attitude; he’d garnered respect from everyone in the crew and had become one of them.
As had River.
Kaylee sighed, thinking about the girl she considered her Mei-Mei. The child had had a horrible childhood, being experimented on and tortured by the Academy, and while she was still somewhat lunatic, she’d endeared herself to the crew of Serenity, and everyone knew that she would die to save them--she’d proven that when she’d locked them in safety on Miranda and went out to fight the crowd of Reavers by herself, unarmed…and somehow managed to survive the fight without a scratch.
While Kaylee worried about the others and if the Alliance had caught them, she also worried about herself, but not by much. River was the greatest secret of the Alliance, she was the deadliest weapon ever created…and Kaylee knew River would never let anything hurt her.
Chihuahua nor Great Dane.
Suddenly remembering something, Kaylee’s eyes fly open and she looked around, praying to Buddha that it hadn’t been damaged. Shazza, Paris and Jack were busy elsewhere, and so she took off her boot and undid the heel, pulling out a little chip-like device embedded within.
Pressing the end of it and flipping a little switch, Kaylee nearly squealed when a light appeared at the base, flickering.
It was working!
Hurriedly putting the tracking device into the faux heel, screwing it back on, Kaylee grinned broadly, thanking Simon silently for having thought of having them all imbedded with tracking devices so that if they were lost or taken, the others could find their location.
We’re going to be found, and everything’s going to be alright.
The sounds of shots and screams jarred her from her optimistic thought.
There’d been silence when River and Zeke went to bury the other body. While she knew that he didn’t need her help, the thoughts of those in the hold were loud and hurt her, so she’d decided to come out here and get away from them before she had a ‘crazy attack’ as Jayne oh-so delicately liked to put it.
The sun-tarp had fallen on one side since Zeke had erected it earlier, and now blocked the sight-line between the ship and the grave sight.
For some reason that made River a little uncomfortable.
Zeke lifted the tarp only to find that the bodies were gone and there was some sort of opening in the back of the grave. River knew this was odd, but the only thoughts she picked up were Zeke’s guilt-filled ones, so even though the hairs of her arms stood on end she didn’t say anything as Zeke hopped down into the grave.
“What the bloody hell…?” He asked, dropping to all fours and looking into the tunnel. “It’s like some kind of burrow.” Taking the hand-light off of his belt, he shone it into the tunnel.
River, sensing a presence, looked up and turned towards the spires, immediately finding the muscular figure hiding there.
His goggled gaze was once more upon her, and River tilted her head to the side as she realized that the heat she felt raking her body was the intensity of his stare.
She didn’t understand why her heart beat faster, and why her breaths were coming unevenly. This had never happened to her before at the Academy, was something wrong with her? Was she coming apart?
What was this sensation in the pit of her stomach?
It was as if a coil was tightening in her stomach, and it became agonizingly pleasurable when the man smirked at her.
Suddenly voices screamed in her mind painfully and she bent. Holding her head between her hands she screamed out right before Zeke’s scream joined hers and shots were heard being fired.
Forcing herself to take her hands from her head, River turned to see Zeke half within the tunnel, fighting for his life, blood spurting everywhere.
Jumping into the grave River grabbed hold of his leg and tried pulling him out, yet something within the tunnel was pulling him as well, and was stronger than her, pulling her in as well.
The moment half of her body was within the darkness, she screamed a teeth cut into her flesh and creatures jumped on her, cutting her. She fought, grabbing one that jumped at her with its fanged mouth wide open.
Her hands had the creature by the open jaws, teeth digging painfully into her fingers. Ignoring the pain, she forced all her strength into her hold and tore the jaws apart, killing the creature instantly. The other creatures screeched and backed away slightly, obviously confused.
She couldn’t hear Zeke anymore.
Right as the creatures were about to attack once more she screamed when something grabbed a hold of her ankle and with a strong, swift movement had pulled her out of the tunnel and back into the sunlit grave.
River was shivering, shaking, and barely noticed when Riddick picked her up and pulled them out of the grave up to the land in time for Shazza to see them and scream.
“Stop the voices, stop them from screaming, stop them from hungering.” She begged Riddick, who looked like he wanted to run but stayed there with her as she had a death grip on his arm. “They have death on their breath and the night in their eyes as they prey in the black. They are vicious lions in their den waiting for Daniel to be thrown down to them.”
“Girl,” it was the first time she’d heard his voice, and it sent unexpected shivers down her body. “You’re all sorts of crazy, aren’t you?”
“WHERE’S ZEKE?” Shazza screamed, backed by Jack, Paris and Kaylee, who’d just arrived. She looked at River’s scratched, bloody body. “What have you done with ‘em? You bloody sick animal you, what’dja do with me Zeke?!” She raised the war-pick menacingly.
Riddick rose and since River was still in his arms bridal style, he lifted her as well.
“No, no, the wolf didn’t redden the moon, it was the dogs.” River trembled as she spoke. “The wolf sunk his jaws into the girl and pulled her from the clutches of Grim before she reddened the moon further!”
“What the bloody hell is she rambling on about?” Paris asked no one in particular. “There’s no bloody moon!”
Shazza took a step towards them.
“No!” Kaylee hurried forwards, eyeing Riddick fearfully yet trusting River. “She—she’s saying that Riddick didn’t do it, that something down in the grave killed Zeke and would have killed her too if Riddick hadn’t pulled her out.”
Shazza stalked to the tarp and pulled it apart, looking down at the bloody tunnel and collapsed on the sand. “Zeke…” All fierceness left her as she burst into heart-broken tears.
There was the sound of a pistol being cocked. “Same crap, different planet, huh?” Johns asked, apparently appearing out of nowhere, pistol pointed on Riddick. “Put her down, Riddick. You’ve done enough.”
“It wasn’t the wolf!” River tried once more, blood pouring from her shredded hands.
Johns looked at her as if trying to get what she was talking about.
River turned her gaze to Kaylee in frustration, pleading with her to intervene.
Kaylee nodded and gave Johns a shaky version of her ‘Kaylee Smile’, the smile that made men go brainless and do whatever it was she asked them. “J-Johns, Riddick saved her. There’s something else down there.”
“The only monster I see is holding that little girl.” Johns declared, yet he shot an anxious look at the grave and the blood there. “Now Riddick, I want you to lower that girl and come nice and easy with us to the ship so we can question you.”
Riddick snorted at him before beginning a leisurely pace back towards the shuttle, still holding a shaking River, obviously defying Johns as much as he could.
River closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of the night wolf, wondering about her body’s chemical reaction to him and if it were normal.
Deciding to ask Kaylee if she knew what this might mean, she spent the rest of the walk to the ship in silence, looking up at her rescuer and imprinting his scent into her mind.