Hide, Hide Yourself for Now
We caught you plotting murder
And now the tide is turning
We'll light our souls, heal our bones
Upon your empire burning
"Spy Hunter", Project 86
It took the better part of a year and enough blood to paint the throne room red ten times over before Riddick had the Necromongers where he wanted them. To say he'd lost the majority of the command ranks would be claiming responsibility for them, and that was a thing he'd never asked for. Instead, he chose to look at is as culling. Those stupid enough to challenge him, thinking that just because he didn't have two fucking scars on either side of his neck he wasn't fit to rule them, those were the first to die. Their mistake in thinking that he wouldn't have been able to kill Zhylaw if Vaako hadn't made his play led them to believe that they could take him. None of what they thought mattered. He cut down every challenger who came forward and walked over their bodies as he went about the business of taking control. Of sinking deeper into the pit and aiming for the bear trap at the bottom. Because that's what the whole fucking mess was. A new sort of prison. One he'd get out of eventually.
He'd made his final point just before he ordered the departure of the Armada from the known sectors of the Arm. Preparations had been underway, he'd gotten Imam's woman and her daughter packed off in a scout vessel with a contingent of guards and a pile of valuables to start them off in a new life on the closest bit of true civilization he could manage. The guards would drop her off safely on threat of their deaths coming quicker than they wanted and then catch up with the giant warbeast that was the Armada as it made its slow way across space. It was the last living tie he needed to cut before he took his dead and those who wished to be dead and dropped them off the edge of the known Universe. Preferably without him, because there was no way in Hell he'd walk quietly to whatever kind of death it was that let something like his predecessor come back.
No. Way. In. Hell.
So he'd been satisfied that things were going according to the sketch of a plan that he'd put together, headed for his quarters and the comfort of their darkness, when someone slithered up behind him and tried to put a shiv in his ribs. It wasn't really a shiv. Too finely crafted for that, but he didn't care enough to call it a knife. And the way it was being used made it a shiv anyways. He hadn't been paying a lot of attention. He saw his attacker nearly every day, smelled her everywhere. She'd tried to go through his quarters, as if he had anything he cared about in there anyways. So far she'd stuck to trying to get her husband to make some sort of assassination attempt, but something must have driven her over the edge this time. If there ever had been an edge for this crazy bitch in the first place. He wondered sometimes if she hadn't thrown herself at the Necros when they arrived on her world and begged for the power they could give her.
At that moment though, none of it mattered. None of it even occurred to him. He did what he always did, let the animal take over and keep him from getting more than a scrape along the rib bones as he twisted and backhanded her all in one motion. He caught her as she spun, wrapped one arm around her torso and the other hand around her jaw, and gave a sharp twist, using the pent up momentum and speed of both their attacks to snap her neck. That's when it registered with his thinking mind, who exactly it was that had tried to fuck with him. Snarling, he'd drug the body behind him as he headed for her quarters, well aware of the fact that every Necro in eyesight was watching. Blood was starting to trickle down his side, but he was wearing black, and it was more likely to pool in his boot than leave trace on the floor. Vaako had been in his quarters, and Riddick hadn't really given a damn what he was doing. It had been what was about to happen that was mattered. He'd dropped his burden in the center of the first room, leathery dress puddling around her and the hair he'd been dragging her by splayed over the floor in a wild tangle of undone braids. And then he'd waited, watching the expressions chasing themselves over his last remaining Commander's face, smelling the corresponding scents. Shock, anger, and finally resignation each had their turn. After a long moment, the man had straightened, fist hitting his chest and barking "Loyalty to Underverse come," in a semi-strangled voice. Riddick had simply nodded and left. Now that he had the absolute loyalty of the one man who could have posed a real threat, his sketchy plan for escape had crystalized a little further. It had always been easier when it was just him in the relatively known quantity of a slam. Funny how he almost missed those days.
Now here he was, drifting in space and still not free. He had a pack of Necromonger dogs that Vaako had saddled him with before he'd agree to take the rest of the Armada on towards the Threshold and Kyra's body in cryo along for the ride. So far he hadn't found a planet that seemed right to set her down on. This part of the Arm was full of planets that had been capable of sustaining life. Until the Necros had come through. Now they were mainly wastelands. Or they had been. Furya had been the last charted planet in the quadrant he'd left just over a year ago, and everything since then had been new and unknown. A few planets had had water and breathable air. They'd stopped, if only to refresh the oxygen scrubbers and supplies. Necro ships, even the smaller Destroyers like the one he'd been saddled with, could travel through space nearly indefinitely so long as they could keep water and 02 losses to an absolute minimum, but restocking was always wise. He didn't intend to stop for good until he'd done two things. First, find a place to set Kyra down, a place where the planet itself didn't try to kill anything that set foot on it. He had no idea who she'd been or where she'd come from before boarding the Hunter-Gatzner all those years ago, but he knew twelve year old girls didn't travel alone and disguised as boys just for the hell of it. She may not even deserve peace, but he wasn't leaving her body with the Necros and he wasn't just going to dump her again.
Secondly, he needed to get rid of these fucking guards. Guards. For him! It was insulting and funny as hell all at the same time. He wasn't sure if Vaako had told them to try to drag him back if it looked like he was skipping out or if the man was actually worried that he'd land on some other planet full of monsters and need the cannon fodder to cover his ass. Either way, it had been the first time the Commander had openly argued with him since his wife's body had been dropped in the middle of their quarters. He'd almost killed the man, but he needed someone to keep the Armada in check as they traveled, keep them from destroying any more planets on their way through occupied space. But Vaako had sworn absolute loyalty, and had taken every opportunity to prove it. So, growling, Riddick had accepted the Destroyer and its crew along with the company of guards. Maybe he'd just blow the thing up once he'd set Kyra down. He hadn't figured that part out yet.
A hissing crackle at his elbow warned him to hit the volume on the comm just before the navigator's scratchy voice deafened him in the echoing room. "Lord Marshall Sir, there's something you should see."
Riddick growled and thumbed the toggle. "Coming." Giving the fair skin and dark hair under the glass one last look, the big man turned and left the hold, lowering his goggles as he went. These Necros might keep things dim in the halls and personal spaces, but the bridge was always lit up like Helion and it was too dangerous to have them lower the lights just so he could see. Plus, the goggles made them nervous.
He was still smirking to himself when he entered the bridge and leaned over the navigator's shoulder. The man's scent bloomed in his nose, apprehension and worry like someone dripping a citrus fruit into his nasal cavities. He lifted a lip in a silent snarl before backing off, just a bit. Oddly, the scent didn't change like it usually did after he'd made his dominance play. Frowning, he leaned forward again, and the navigator shifted just enough to give a clearer view of the screen. "What's that," Riddick growled, reaching forward and homing in on the floating dot in the center. It wasn't an asteroid, or meteors. For a moment his mind flashed to a ship shaking and rattling as bits of comet debris punched through the hull and into the cryo boxes around him. He dismissed it immediately. No comets around. No planets nearby to land and get eaten on. He tried to zoom again, but the visual sensors were at their limits. Switching over, he ran signals, heat, and finally infrared scanners. Their range varied, but it was the external comms that finally netted results. Three long staticky beeps, three short, and three long. A burst of some unintelligible language, and then the beeps again. Frowning, he leaned back to study the screen. The distress code meant a ship, which meant humans of some sort or another. A year's travel past the known occupied areas of space and they'd found a ship in distress. What were the odds?
Curiosity had always gotten him in more trouble than he could keep track of and he had a feeling that it was going to be his downfall eventually, but he'd never been one to overlook opportunities to escape, and half the time it was his curiosity that had helped him find those openings and weaknesses in the walls around him. Right now he had the feeling that he was looking at his way out and away from these necrophiliac freaks. Growling to himself in satisfaction, he clapped a hand on the navigator's shoulder. The man rocked, his fear scent bloomed again, and then steadied. "Let's go check it out," the Lord Marshall rumbled.
Necromongers, Riddick had discovered, were not above hijacking converts straight out of space flight. The Destroyer class ships especially had been built for such and not for the first time he wondered at Vaako's choice of ship to send his Lord Marshall off into the deeps. It couldn't take other vessels on board, unless they were about the size of the planet hoppers mercs tended to favor, but it had an adaptive seal that could lock on to pretty much anything from a trade frigate to a large military cruiser. Guns mounted in a double line forward to aft ensured the cooperation of enemy vessels, knocked them off course and their passengers out of cryo and into a state of fear that nine times out of ten all but guaranteed fresh batches of converts willing to throw themselves at any hope of escape from their stranded vessels. At the time of departure, Riddick had appreciated the guns, scorned the need for the seals, and completely trashed the Conversion chambers. He wasn't on a recruitment hunt and he'd made his point abundantly clear to the one cleric who'd managed to bluster his way on board. The man had been left back on a planet with little soil, much salt water, and freakishly erratic tides. If he was still alive it was only by heading as far inland as he could manage and praying for fresh water somewhere. It was more than others had gotten.
Now the big man found himself grateful for the seals, as the ship they were approaching looked nothing like any he'd ever seen. Sleek lines and flaring wings reminded him of some of the deep sea flyer fish he'd seen pictures of here and there. Squared off slightly where the tail should have been, a hatch was obvious; and it was to the rim around it that the seal of the Destroyer was adapting itself, plates of dark metal sliding and grinding before the rubberized sheath slipped out and molded itself to the framework provided. Standing there, twenty Necros at his back, Riddick had a realization. There was a keypad set into the hatch, covered in numbers he recognized and characters he didn't. Patterns of sharp lines mocked him as he growled under his breath and tried to think. A large button next to a tiny blinking light seemed as good a risk as any and he stabbed at it with one finger, already bracing himself for an explosion. Instead something beeped, a feminine voice spoke to him in that strange language again, and the doors of the unknown vessel hissed open, leaving Riddick and his men staring into a small cargo bay turned to hell.
The rusty tang of dried blood assaulted his nose, and he could tell that at some point someone had been gutted. He didn't take off his goggles, the bright emergency lights that flashed around the edges of the bay made the dark/light ratio too erratic for his unshielded vision. Pools and splashes of darker color painted the room in erratic loops and squiggles. In the center of the floor was a larger puddle, and he looked up to see the origin. Face a rictus of pain around the spear protruding from her mouth, pale skin hanging in patches and flaps around her abdomen and splayed legs, the woman hung, supported by not only the spear that had been rammed through her from nethers to nose but by the chains through her ankles as well. A man dangled from each like some obscene sort of jewelry, one skewered through the stomach and the other looking like he'd been gaffed in the ass. Dried blood coated them all, and only extreme self-control kept Riddick from holding his nose at the stench. He'd smelled worse, but that was usually in the slam, and not along with a formerly living version of some of the statues that decorated Necropolis. Behind him he could hear the Necros shifting, and he dredged up a smirk. They might have bad taste in art, but when it came to actual fighting they killed and moved on, not leaven even their enemies to linger long at Death's door. They'd wanted as many left alive and intact as they could manage, to fatten the ranks, but had no use for those dead or dying. A line drifted through his head, remember from some long ago book in the long ago Ranger training. Something about Davy Jones and a ship crewed by the dead. It fit the Necros to a T.
Figuring he'd let his men stew long enough, a growled and turned. "Search the ship. Supplies, signs of life." He snagged the mousy navigator by the elbow as the warriors moved around him. "Origin. Where did it come from?" The man nodded and stepped around him, jaw set and determinedly not looking at the gruesome chandelier. Riddick followed more slowly, examining as he went. A weight bench in one corner and stacks of shipping crates in another. A locker proved full of weapons, mainly unfamiliar guns. A small box in the corner held clear bullets full of a translucent liquid. Frowning, he kept one of bullets and set the box down before starting to sort through the guns, hunting for the one that looked like it would take the ammo. An empty rack answered his question, but before he could go any further in his investigation the comm on his wrist beeped. "Lord Marshall Sir," came the voice of the navigator. "I believe I have found some answers. The bridge is directly forward of the cargo bay Sir." Something in the man's voice quivered and Riddick snarled silently to himself. More fear smell on top of old blood and ruptured bowels. Just what he needed.
The bridge was tiny; barely room enough for one, and no copilot chair in sight. The parts of the wall that weren't windows were covered in panels and banks of dimly lit screens. Over those was a man, staked by hands and feet, with dried intestines hanging out of his abdomen like a particularly grisly garland. Riddick stepped around the mess on the floor and slipped in next to the pilot's seat, where the navigator was working furiously. "Well," he rumbled, crossing his arms.
The man looked up, and then keyed up the screen. "Sir, it appears that the vessel is human in origin. Most likely from the first people of the Exodus from Earth." His lip lifted in silent scorn for a people who fled their home rather than taking their rightful deaths, but in the next moment his face was smooth again. "I am unclear as to the second language, but the first appears to be a form of-"
"Common," Riddick interrupted, and leaned over for a closer look. Sure enough, mixed in among the sharp lines and squared off characters were a few familiar words. Frowning, he looked at the navigator. "Hound?"
"It appears to be the name of the ship my lord. From what I can tell," a few more buttons and a dial turned. "This was a mercenary vessel carrying cargo. The captain's log cuts off abruptly. I cannot read the rest of it, but the last word is in Common." The man turned to look at his leader. "Reavers."
Riddick frowned and sat back, eyeing the man who'd been crucified to the wall and ceiling. That explained the guns. And probably the strange bullet too. Tranq guns. The missing space in the gun locker had been about big enough for something long range. So why had it been missing? There wasn't enough space on this boat to turn around properly, much less need a long range gun. What could they be carrying that they thought they still needed to keep it under, even in cryo?
That brought another realization. A quick glance around the cabin confirmed it. No cuffs. No tubes. No vials of cryo drugs. Frowning, he turned to the Necro in the pilot's chair. "Have they found the cryo equipment yet?"
That startled the man. He jerked around, seeing for the first time what had already been noticed. Riddick curled a lip. Necros. Fools. They didn't travel in cryo. Their vessels were too slow, the grav drives on them didn't play the same havoc on the body that supra light travel did. Even if it did, they'd probably enjoy it. Either way, the rest of the known universe did use cryo for space travel. Why didn't this ship? Growling, Riddick pushed past the man and started his own search, poking is nose in hatches and down the short halls. The boat smelled lived in. There was a galley, bunks, even a head that proved they were up and around enough to want and take showers, short as they may be with the limited water possible on this thing. All the smells were old, stale, and covered over with the continuous stench of old blood, but he couldn't seem to find any sign of cryo during travel.
It was a whiff of antiseptic that proved him wrong. His men had obviously missed the spot, searching for the obvious and not thinking to look for cubby holes and hiding places. He'd just wandered out of the tiny infirmary and back out into the equally tiny cargo bay when the floor thunked hollowly under him and the movement of the grate stirred the air enough for him to smell it. And hear it. Old sweat, the antiseptic, drugs of some sort. And a faint heartbeat. He turned, just to make sure it wasn't the infirmary fooling his senses, but the room was just as stale and copper tasting as the rest of the boat. A few steps got him off the section of decking that had rocked and he crouched for closer inspection. He could hear his men coming up behind him and growled to himself. Metal boots on metal decking were not a good combination for quiet. Waving them to a stop, he bent over and sniffed. The scent was stronger down here, and he could see tiny divots along the edge of the metal plate. His fingers were too big, so he unsheathed one of his big curved shivs from his belt and went to work. One of the more enterprising of his men caught on and knelt to work on the opposing side of the plate with his own blade. Between the two of them they got it loosened enough for fingers to slip under. Riddick met the man's eyes with his goggles and nodded. As one they lifted. The plate caught on some hidden hooks and brought them up short. The Necro stumbled, but Riddick merely snarled and gave a wrench, snapping the restraints as he did so. The solder lurched forward but caught his end and together they set the plate aside. The smell hit him like a slap in the face and he wondered briefly if there'd been some sort of hermetic seal on the hidden compartment, damaged during the struggle with whatever had attacked this ship. Frowning, he stared down into the hole, peeling back his goggles for a better look.
It was a box. Or a coffin. It could have been either. But the blinking lights on one corner of its surface and the heartbeat he could hear even louder now argued against the coffin theory. Was this their cryo then? It was probably their cargo, considering the care they'd taken to hide it from a casual observer. Were they mercs or were they smugglers? Slavers? Riddick snorted to himself and shrugged. It didn't really matter one way or the other. Now he had someone to answer his questions. Provided they could wake whoever-the-fuck-it-was up. Stepping back, he gestured at his men. "Get it out," he growled. "And be careful."
"Sir," asked the Necro who'd helped him get the decking up. Riddick snarled at him as he pulled his goggles down and moved out of the way, further into the cargo bay. The man didn't argue further. A fist to his chest in salute and he turned back to the hole and its contents as the warriors tried to figure out how to get the box out. Riddick snorted and went back to the weapons locker, leaving half his attention to his men while the other half started looking for hidden catches and levers. Had to be something else hidden in here if the guns were so easy to get to.
He'd emptied the thing of guns and lifted the racks by the time the men got the box out. He was in the middle of pulling the back panel from the locker, revealing an impressive set of shivs and was that a sword, when the thud and scrape of the box on the floor behind him caught his attention. Frowning, he drifted back over to the group, which was now made up of his entire contingent, the others having come back to report and gotten pulled into the effort to free the box and its mysterious contents instead. Something about the scent had changed, but it was hard to pin down between the smell of the bay and the Necros. Growling an order, he got the men to stand still while he listened. Sure enough, the heartbeat was louder. Still slow, but steadily rising. He cocked his head and leaned over the box, resting his hands on either side of the display readout as he tried to pin the scent down as well. It wasn't acrid or acid like fear, or burning like anger. Like cool water, it threaded through the drugs, antiseptic, mint, and sweat. If he'd had to take a guess, he'd almost say it was anticipation, but without a baseline read on whoever it was, he couldn't say for sure. One way to find out.
Stepping back he nodded at his men. "Open it."
Four of them stepped forward, ceremonial blades ready to dig into the seams and pry, but before they could complete the action, the navigator stepped out of the hall he'd been lurking in and came into the light. "My Lord, if I may?"
Riddick turned and raised an eyebrow. "What?"
The slim man held up what looked to be a data pad in one hand, shining with words both familiar and unfamiliar. "I believe this may work better." That said, he glanced at the pad, centered it over the display on the box, and slid it into place with a soft click. In his other hand he held…a hand. Riddick snorted as the navigator pressed the hand of the dead man who must have captained the ship to the data pad. It beeped, blinked, and a tinny voice said "Palm print accepted. Cryo disengaging in three…two…"
With a click and a hiss the seal let loose and the top half of the box lifted a few milimeters. The navigator stepped back to let the warriors closer and soon the lid had been removed and set aside. Riddick shoved his way into the mass of armored men, all of whom seemed to have forgotten the threat at their backs in their interest in what lay in front of them. He growled and that seemed to shock the remaining Necros into remembering he was there, because they parted for him. Still rumbling, he stared down into the box, inhaling deeply and trying to figure out the meaning of the scent of cool water.
He didn't have long to wait. Just as he reached the foot of the box its occupant's eyes popped open. Huge and dark in a pale face and surrounded by straggling dark hair, the girl took less than half a second to scan the armored bodies around her before she moved. Two men were down, eye sockets bleeding, before any of the Necros could register the fact that she was attacking. Two more fell, throats bubbling, before the rest could reach for the weapons. If it hadn't been for the fact that these men had put themselves under his protection, made him alpha of their screwed up little pack, Riddick would have just sat back and watched as the girl danced her way through the pile. Eight were down by the time he'd bulled his way into the center of the fight. Two more went down as he kicked one end of the cryo box out of his way. She had a blade strapped to her wrist somehow, and had driven it back over her shoulder into the eye socket of the soldier trying to get her under control while she took his gun hand and used the weapon on another. The first went down with a gurgling cry, the second crumpled more quietly.
And then Riddick was there, fist swinging. Straight through empty air. She'd ducked, rolled under his arm, and popped up behind him. He turned, trying to catch her as she came up and she jumped again, rolling backwards over his shoulder and flying feet first at another of his men. She followed him down, knees wrapped around his neck even as she continued the roll. Riddick heard the man's neck snap just before she released her hold, tumbling backwards into a crouch. But she'd cornered herself with that last move. She'd landed in the passageway leading to the bridge, and Riddick could tell from the lack of glowing light in that direction that the Navigator had closed the hatch on the room before coming down to the cargo bay. Behind him he could hear muffled curses and guns being drawn. Growling, he waved at them. Last thing they needed was guns in a tight space.
The girl was inching back, hands at the ready and her eyes. For every step he took forward, she took one back. The emergency lights flashed and spun overhead, making it harder to judge distance, but his nose was working fine. The scent of cool water was still there, overlaid with something like sour fruit and a bit of charcoal to leaven the mix. The drugs burning out of her system maybe. He thought briefly of the missing tranq gun, wishing he'd found it so he didn't have to risk a shiv in the gut just to get close to this girl. He'd thought Kyra was wild, but this girl put a whole new meaning to the phrase 'trapped animal'.
"She will not sleep again!" The first words out of her mouth came in a high pitched shriek as she threw herself forward, shiv in hand and the last lingering bits of sanity completely gone from her eyes as she attacked with none of the grace she'd displayed not two minutes past. The sour fruit smell hit him like a hammer, along with the citrus of pure terror, but he managed to reach out and catch her wrist. A twist and a yank and he had the other one as well. The girl shrieked again, something in that unknown language, and bit at his hand. Feet flailed and he almost found himself thanking someone for the invention of crotch guards as one of her heels impacted with the lightweight armor he'd remembered to put on for once. Growling, he got one of her legs pinned between his knee and the wall. She was snarling and shrieking and his ears were starting to ring. With one final effort he brought his fist around to her temple. A last gurgling cry and she was, finally, silent.
Author's Note: They're not mine! I wish they were. If they were, this wouldn't just be fanfic, this would be made into a real movie. Real. Movie. Or at least some variation of this. As it is, Firefly/Serenity is Whedon's and Riddick's universe (and the man) are property of Tuohy. Neither of which is me.
This is a re-edited chapter. I did a crap job the first time around. In another couple of weeks I'll probably look at it and cringe again at other stuff I missed. I wanted to say a couple things, things I'll mention in upcoming author's notes. Riddick is a grumpy bear, and far more likely to hit first and ask questions later at this point in his life than he was during the movies. But if a girl popped out of a box and tried to kill you, would you really stop to ask questions? The ship, by the way, is NOT Serenity. Read the description carefully, and the navigator's conversation with Riddick in the bridge. We won't be seeing Serenity for a long time. Chapters wise that is. I promise though, the crew and the ship will show up eventually, but the needs of the story outweigh the possible hijinks I could get up to otherwise.
That said, please review! Reviews are awesome. They are lifeblood. They prove that someone out there has actually read this. They lift my heart, they…you get the idea. Till later then.