Cool

On hindsight they said, it was strange that no one had seen him coming. On hindsight they said that such a man, no, such a monster hardly could have walked down the streets unnoticed. On hindsight they said, it only proved how dangerous he was, when no one could detect him until it was too late.

They got it all wrong. Before it happened, he had been in full view of hundreds of people, not all of them dead now, and they had walked past. They had walked past, without looking twice, because then he had been one of them, just another one of the normal people on the street. There was even one who had watched more closely, who could give a rather clear account of what had taken place. They simply never thought of asking that particular witness. And, unsurprisingly, the monster part didn't fit, either. Not then.

A little boy at the hand of his mother was bored to tears. Not literally, of course. Since he had found out about being a male, not so long ago, he was striving hard for the ideal of Cool. Crying like a baby certainly wasn't on the list. But he wished heart and soul for some kind of excitement. Looking up at his mother, he decided that the lively conversation, she had started with a friend they had met on the street, wasn't about end any time soon. Tugging would earn him nothing but a stern reprimand to behave. He stared at his feet, sullenly. Then he searched the shopping mile for anything more interesting than a stupid boutique. And found what he sought.

Just across the street a young man was quietly sipping from a cup. He was sitting in a niche between the pillars adorning the front of the building, feet dangling, and the boy envied him. This was a position he yearned to reach but was never allowed to. And the man himself, he was tall, even for an adult, he looked strong, he was a soldier – not wearing uniform, but the shaven head was a dead giveaway – in one word, he was cool. For the rest of the passers-by he might be just another off-duty soldier, of no particular interest in a city next to three great barracks, but for the four-year-old he was an object of admiration and envy. The man looked up and the boy shyly avoided his eyes, abruptly recalling that staring at people was Rude. So he didn't see the soldier grinning good-humouredly behind his cup.

Still debating with himself whether he dared to look back again, the boy was taken completely by surprise by the following events. There were loud popping noises, like fireworks, sharp whistling and then his mother's hand was suddenly torn away from his. Looking up he saw her and her friend flying backwards to hit the ground hard a few meters away. Then he was thrown of his feet as well, as the soldier wrapped himself all around the smaller body and together they rolled and rolled, until they hit the wall on the opposite side of the street. For a moment they just laid there, but before the boy could get uncomfortable, wedged between wall and paving on one side and the man's body on the other, he was hauled upright and sat down against a wall.

"You're alright, kid?" a deep voice whispered.

He nodded, remembered his manners and said "Yes, sir." At least he tried to, a thumb over his lips muffled most of it.

"Shhh," the soldier made. "Better to keep quiet, right now."

He peered out of the nook he had rolled them in, then looked back at the child.

"I need you to stay right here and don't move, okay? You do this for me, kid?"

The boy nodded furiously. The man flashed him a grin that was gone an instant later, patted his shoulder and crawled away. He moved like a snake, only, of course, that snakes had no arms to pull them forward. The boy was fascinated. He watched the soldier wriggle across the street, come to his feet in a side alley, look back at him with a small wave, and as the child waved back, disappear from sight. The boy waited. There was something strange going on, many people lying on the street, some screaming, some laughing, but then he forgot it all because his new friend reappeared. He had climbed on top of the house somehow, and now he was walking on the roof, in a low crouch, moving like a giant cat.

"Cool," the boy whispered under his breath, knowing to the core of his four-year-old self that this was an ideal worth aspiring to. He watched the soldier pass over the roofs of several buildings, jumping hazardously from one to the next. He stopped above a pair of men, the ones that were laughing, the boy realised, and about the only ones still standing upright. There he dropped out of sight, to reappear directly behind one of the laughing men. He did something the boy couldn't make out properly and the man crumbled to the ground; then stepped behind the other one while the first was still falling and did the same. Only this time he held the other man upright with one arm and aimed the other arm across the street. There were more popping noises and the boy came to the conclusion that he was seeing a gun in action. He had only a very vague concept of guns, but, since his new friend used them, they instantly acquired a new label: Cool. Silence fell. After a moment the soldier dropped the man he had held and just stood there, gun in hand, looking up and down the street. And then blue lightning hit him and crawled all over his body. He collapsed. And for the first time on this day the boy was scared.

A lot of confusion started after that. Peacekeeper skiffs dropped all over the place and people were shouting and running and doing… things. An armoured peacekeeper found a little child snuggled into a recess.

He scooped it up and asked "You're alright, kid?"

The boy smiled, in recollection of the last time he had been asked that question, and answered truthfully, "Yes, sir. It was cool."

He didn't really understand why the man frowned at him with a mixture of shock and disgust, and told him in a sharp voice, "No, it wasn't, kid. It was very bad."

A few weeks later, the boy's father looked up from the news and said, "So they sent the last of those bastards into a slam to rot. A pity they didn't shoot him like the rest."

The little boy didn't understand most of this statement, but he was glad anyway, for the words were accompanied by a hug and he wasn't getting many of these, lately. His mother still hadn't come back from the strange shopping trip. He wondered if she was still talking to that friend of hers. But mainly he wondered what his new friend was doing, and ever since, whenever he heard the word 'cool', even if it was just used to describe the weather, it brought the image to his mind, of a tall, olive-skinned man, moving over the rooftops with feline grace.

A/N: Somewhere on the Chronicles of Riddick DVD it says, he knows how to pilot because at one point of his life Riddick was in the military. So I assume there was no straight downhill road from liquor store trash bin to the worst slams of the universe but a chance for a more or less normal life somewhere in-between. So what went wrong? Either they taught him to kill without thinking – and found the beast they had created was more than they could handle; or it was the slam itself that formed him that way. But how did he get there, then? This is my suggestion – I've only seen the movies, so if this story collides with any official version, bear with me.