And here we are, at the final chapter of 'A Matter of Instinct'. We're just one review shy of equalling the reviews for 'Faint Premonition'! Thanks to BlueEyedPisces and jinxedpixie for your reviews. The next part of the story will be a short fic called 'Truths' and will be posetd next week. The one after that, 'Departures', will probably not be posted here on ff net due to rating restrictions, but it will definitely be over on aff net for folks to see. Besides those, I have two more short fics planned before we get into the events of TCoR, 'Homes' and 'New Beginnings', followed by the nine-chapter 'Sight Unseen'. Enjoy the chapter and leave me a review!
A Matter of Instinct
A Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury Alternate Universe
We leave th' kid, th' prospector, an' th' holy man behind, an' I lift a swingblade, makin' a shallow cut across my arm. Th' blood wells up an' drips onto th' decking as we move. For a moment, Eileen looks like she's gonna comment, bitch me out or somethin', but she thinks before she speaks. Realizes I'm leavin' a trail for whatever's after us. An' I'm the only one that left blood in that fuckin' arena.
"Race ya?" I blink for a second as I process th' question, then I return her grin. It'll be good t' stretch my legs some.
We both hit full throttle, an' my woman lets out a peal of laughter. Hell, we're gonna go have ourselves some fun with this.
"So where do we gotta go to meet up with Ridd—" A firm hand over her mouth silenced Jack, and she scowled. Apparently, nobody wanted to hear what she had to say.
The imam put a finger to his lips, signaling for silence. Then she heard the clunking of the mercs' magnetic boots. Hell, she'd just about put her foot in her mouth again.
Four of them went by, one pausing a few seconds later before going after the others. The girl sighed, shoulders slumping, and looked to the brunette. Crouched between her and the dark-skinned man, Shazza shook her head.
Was there something else coming? Four mercs would be nothing for Riddick and Eileen. Another, much heavier set of metallic feet echoed through the corridor, spaced out so far that whatever they belonged to had to have some really long legs. And it was getting closer, fast.
With a thunderous roar, it passed their hiding place, and time seemed to slow while she watched it. A round ball of pinkish flesh, a bit bigger than her head and almost entirely mouth, snapped its teeth closed and got pulled back inside a much, much larger jaw edged with round, green artificial optics. Then came the legs, entirely mechanical, with metal arches for feet, followed by a rear end the same color as the first 'head', stumpy and sporting several boneless-looking tails, no two of them the same length.
It was gone practically the moment it left her narrow view of the corridor, and she peered after it once they'd abandoned their niche. No sign of the thing, just another blank wall ahead.
"We've got to help them." Jack glared when there was no immediate response, but neither adult would meet her eyes. "We can't help them if we leave."
"Sometimes, that is exactly how it works." Mr. al-Walid probably thought that would help, but he was wrong. Not that she trusted anything he said in the first place.
"Th' best way t' help them right now is t' keep ourselves safe. An' keeping ourselves safe means leavin' them t' deal with th' immediate threats." Okay, the prospector's explanation made a little more sense.
The twelve-year-old still couldn't help but look over her shoulder as she followed the older pair.
The blood on the decking probably wasn't a good thing. Given the wreckage Gabriel had seen in the arena, one of them had to be injured. He knew Chillingsworth took measures to protect herself from the more dangerous captures, but Riddick didn't seem the type to let anyone collar him.
Well, except maybe for that sweet little piece of woman-flesh that had joined him. And she looked to be cut from the same psycho mold as Big Evil.
No, one of the two had probably been implanted with a subcutaneous explosive. They'd taken it out when the purple-haired wannabe 'art' collector had least expected it, then took advantage of its destructive capabilities to bust out. That woulda left blood in the arena, and now they were leaving a nice, tempting trail of it.
The others stopped, but he kept his eyes on their backtrail, watching for the 'Goll beast.
"I got somethin'." Jameson's response came just seconds after Kraden gave the order. Toombs might not have heard much about Big Evil before his latest stint in cryo, but leaving objects around for people to find was not something the man did.
"Check it out." He looked out of pure curiosity. The blond man held up a small bundle of black cloth.
Oh, fuck me…
"Don't touch that!" He knew the warning was far too late even as the words left his mouth. Metal feet echoed close by.
"Oh, shit." They started unloading rounds into the hideous thing the moment it came around the corner, to no effect. Jameson bit the dust, and Gabriel started looking for an escape route.
A large pipe, nearly a meter in diameter, ran along the wall and floor behind him. The frosty bitch's legs vanished down the creature's throat as he turned his rifle to the tube. Part of it came away in fragments, and Toombs abandoned the weapon to dive into the murky liquid that was revealed.
Just in time, too, because the entire pipe section vanished right behind him.
As far as I could tell, the mercs never even glanced up.
Riddick had found a wide airshaft for us to hide in, nicely situated above the center of a large, dark cul-de-sac. With no grate closing it off, it made a good spot to set up an ambush. He'd thrown me up into it easily, then waited until I'd climbed up and vacated the handholds before following with an impressive standing leap/
Only when he whispered his plan into my ear did I understand completely. Wait for the mercs to arrive, then let the beast chomp on 'em for a bit. Once they'd been eliminated, we would drop onto the most convenient part of the thing and kill it. A sound strategy.
But with only a thin layer of fabric and my backplate between us, I'd gotten a little bit distracted. All that lovely bronzed skin on display, and one of his arms wrapped securely around my waist as we practically hung in midair. I turned my head to lick and nip at his bicep, savoring the taste of his sweat. In return, the convict began lavishing attention on my neck. His work was bound to leave a visible mark, but if the other survivors hadn't figured out that there was something going on between us, I didn't care.
Is this more than chemistry? Something deeper?
I had no time to wonder, though. The mercs charged into the dead end, one lifting the shirt that Riddick had deliberately left on the floor. Another yelled a belated warning, and then the creature arrived.
As it tore the bounty hunters to pieces, I heard someone shoot at metal, then a splash and the shrieking sound of the material being ripped out of its place. Then, silence having fallen as the mercs were devoured or bled out, the beast thumped over, tilting to look up the shaft at us. The open maw with its many teeth invited attack.
Letting go of the rungs that had supported us, we dropped like a pair of sharp-edged rocks. Between our four blades and the momentum of more than a hundred and fifty kilos, the monstrous mixture of organic being and machine never stood a chance.
Neither did my tank top and bra.
"Goddammit." I fingered a long tear, then looked at a nearly-exposed breast. "al-Walid would throw a shit fit if I showed up around those boys of his like this."
"Well, I ain't puttin' that back on." My battle-mate dropped the tattered and soaked remains of his shirt. I spotted a torso that had been thrown against a bulkhead, the dead woman appearing to be close to my size. As I stripped the shirt and bra from the partial corpse, he pulled a black wife-beater off a cyborg whose neck was obviously broken.
I shucked the rags, drawing an appreciative whistle. My cheeks heated while I struggled into the merc's clothes; she'd been rather flat-chested. Still, it felt nice to be treated like I was actually pretty.
As though he'd memorized the ship's layout, my mate— and that instinctive appellation still perplexed me— led the way through corridors and shafts. We hit the flight deck and stopped dead. My feral side surged forward, the civilized part gladly ceding control. The Asian woman who had been guarding Her Royal Bitchiness dumped a limp Ali on top of his motionless brothers. Junner held Jack against a wall by her throat, and yet she still fought him. Her eyes bulged as she kicked and scratched, then flipped him the bird.
"Let her go." Upon hearing Riddick's growl, the white-coated merc faced us and discarded the girl like a piece of trash. I carefully watched the woman sidestep along the wall. Knowing that a fight was about to start, I flexed my knees. "It's me you're after," the big convict continued. "You want a shot at th' title?"
"Little miss legal." My opponent's voice sounded like water on a hot pan, sibilant and spitting. "So what would old man Trent think of the company you're keeping?"
"He'd trust my intuition." And he would; my instincts had cracked more than a few tough cases.
With little warning, her hand flickered. The high-pitched hum had me pulling my dagge4rs and shielding my face with them.
Three shuriken hit the titanium-coated blades and fell to the decking, their spin ruined. I didn't want any more throwing stars in the fight; they gave her too much reach. So I rolled forward in a somersault, regaining my feet within arm's length of her.
That close, I could tell that the small, dark mark at the corner of one jade-colored eye was, in fact, a tiny kanji tattoo. I couldn't read it, of course, but filed away a mental picture for later. Time to concentrate on destroying my enemy. It kept me from being surprised when she drew a gleaming pair of sai.
This would be an interesting fight.
Jab. Dodge. Swipe. Lean away. She attempted to feint with one hand and catch me with the opposite knee when I avoided the sai, but I went in a direction she hadn't expected. I bound her left weapon with my right, the three sharp-tipped prongs between the blade and my arm. She just managed to hold off my return shot.
We strained against each other in a test of brute strength, and I glanced at the convict. He and Junner were duking it out bare-handed, having disarmed each other at some point. But my mate had strength to spare, while the merc was almost skeletal. No way for the asshole to win.
I slammed my heel against the other woman's instep, breaking the deadlock, but also pulling the blades out of both our hands. She shifted into a ninjutsu stance, then charged at me. I countered with Krav Maga, the style which came to me most naturally. Strike the correct spot in the right way, and your foe was down, probably dead. I hammered away at her duck-and-run defenses until she grabbed a spanner and swung at me.
I ducked just in case, and another shuriken whizzed past my face. My hand landed on three cool shafts of steel, my fingers closing around the longer centerpiece. I hurled the sai at her; it hummed angrily and buried itself deep in a bulkhead as one of the boys crashed into something. I let her furious charge bowl me over, planting a foot in her gut and sending her flying as I returned to my feet.
A gagging sound came from my left as I stooped to snatch Sinistra off the floor with my fingertips. Half a second later, the lights died, and I seized my chance. The razor-sharp blade slammed into the woman's throat horizontally with all of my mass behind it, cutting clear to her spine. Glass shattered, and Junner screamed. The faint squelching sound under his cry made me grin savagely.
Red emergency lights came on with soft clicks as I stood and cleaned my dagger on the dead woman's dark clothing. The tall merc crumpled, and I turned to look for Dextra. Riddick used his foot to hold the man's skull while he extracted the swingblade from an eye socket.
"I told ya that was comin'." I found my other dagger as he spoke to the corpse. His left hand covered the opposite bicep, but a small motion of his fingers indicated that it was nothing before I could say anything. Why was immediately apparent; Abu had regained consciousness and was rousing others as Jack shook off the effects of near-strangulation.
"Wh-where are you going?" Fear laced the cleric's voice as the convict moved to an elegant star-jumper.
"Gonna prep this ship and get off this heap."
"So we can escape?" The Arab might have though his emphasis on the plural pronoun was subtle. I rolled my eyes as I gave him a 'come along' gesture. The big guy went ahead and pulled the manual hatch release.
"It is over. We have survived." Bright light streamed from inside the craft, and I tensed.
Sulfur seared my nose as the convict fell, the report ringing in my ears. The bitch queen, panting and disheveled, makeup smeared, had been waiting for us. The truly ancient flintlock pistol she held swung around to point at my face.
"Back to hell with you, you bloody, stinking savages!" I could smell his blood over the spent gunpowder, and cringed involuntarily.
No. No. He can't be dead. Please don't let him be dead!
This time, the shot came from behind me. Part of the pale, mascara-streaked face vaporized, the rest of the body collapsing bonelessly. Then blunt fingers touched my ankle, the fabric uppers of my combat boots letting me feel it. Stifling a sob of relief, I crouched to help Riddick.
"Im—" he began, sitting up and turning.
"Yeah, we made it." I blinked, a bit startled to see Jack holding Junner's assault rifle, smoke curling from its barrel as she folded her arms across her chest awkwardly. Most of the other civilians were still trying to stand.
"Awfully uncivilized thing you just did there, Jack." My mate's statement held mild surprise.
"Oh, puh-leeze." Her sardonic reply got a snort of amusement out of me. "She started it. I wasn't gonna let her get away with shooting you both." The girl moved close, and I wrapped her in a one-armed hug.
"Well done, kiddo." I kept my voice soft so it wouldn't carry. "You gotta put 'em down quick like that, then take the headshot. Bullet through the heart won't keep 'em from pullin' the trigger one last time." She smiled a bit shyly, then helped me hoist the convict up off the decking.
We had all survived, despite the best efforts of mercs and monsters alike. Battered, but alive. For a moment, as I ushered the other survivors into the star-jumper, I considered going back for the 'Killer of Men,' but sense prevailed. I had no idea how many mercs had been thawed, for one thing. For another, it would probably take at least me and Riddick to carry him.
I sighed and closed the little yacht's hatch.
Kubla Khan, Aft Observation Deck
Two levels above the flight deck, Toombs watched through the long viewport as Chillingsworth's precious star jumper sped away. Having watched the fight between the bitch's lapdogs and Riddick and his woman— and the insane attempt to shoot the victors— he knew generally who was aboard the yacht. Oh, not names, aside from the bald bastard, but what did that matter?
"Riddick." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "We ain't done, boy. Not by a long shot."
Luxury Star Yacht Sparrow
"Riddick, Eileen." I pulled my gaze away from the information I'd found about the jumper's late owner and found Abu giving the sleeping Jack an odd look. She didn't want to let me or the convict out of her sight, and had almost immediately nodded off in a jumpseat, holding Junner's rifle like a favorite teddy bear. The sword that fit in its barrel sheath leaned against the co-pilot's couch that I occupied.
"Trouble?" The big guy didn't even look up from the manuals he was reading.
"Yes. It is nothing back there." The imam made the assurance far too quickly. "What worries me lies ahead."
"Jack." My voice went flat and quiet as I half-rolled to my feet.
"I am concerned for her, that she'll become—"
"What, like me?" My eyes narrowed. "A well-educated young woman with a mind, career, and ambitions of her own?" He flinched, telling me how right I was. "I know some sects of Islam don't exactly look favorably on independent females, but she's not Muslim, and neither am I. Or do you mean a killer?" al-Walid's expression got mulish. "If I hadn't killed, I'd be just another teenage rape-murder victim. A statistic. And then you might well have died on that lovely little nightmare of a planet. Or those boys." I got right up in his face, pissed off by his assumptions. "So don't try to tell me either of those is 'trouble.'"
"I mean no offense, but…"
"You think I'd do somethin' to her, holy man?" Riddick's voice deepened to a growl. "You don't know shit about me."
"Go worry about those boys of yours." I pointed at the hatch leading into the common area. "I get that you don't approve of either one of us being Jack's role model, but she could do a lot worse. Like Johns." Abu jerked as if I'd slapped him. "She's choosing to go with us of her own free will. Respect that, even if you don't like it." The cockpit lights dimmed, and I felt my eyes change, making the man jump.
He had no defense against what I'd said, and we both knew it. Without another word, the imam left. A glance at the girl showed that she was still sound asleep.
I could hardly wait to get rid of our passengers.