AN: To all my followers and readers, I am so sorry that I have not updated in what feels like forever. I kind of wrote myself into a corner in this chapter and had to sort out how to handle it before progressing. That being said, I think I have come up with a pretty good way to handle my dilemma. I hope you guys like my solution.

Chapter 8: Hard times ahead

Song: Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse


River's POV

"You always had an..artful touch." She says as she removes the teacup from the guards corpse. She turns and looks at him and tries to hold back a smile.

"This girl I used to know gave me the idea."

"What a pair you two must have made." The girl tosses the teacup to the side now.

He can't help but chuckle now. "We gave the Captain a headache or two."

And for the first time in a long time she allows herself to be hopeful..hopeful that her horrible nightmare and revelations are just figments of her imagination. "How are they?"

"They're fine. You'll see them soon enough."

She can feel his mind now…probing how to bring up a delicate topic, so to speak. But she can tell he is having trouble finding the words.

"They didn't…didn't 'touch' her, only wounds. No more harm than that." She says to his unasked question.

"What about the other inmates?" He asks.

"They kept away…she may have broke some bones and encouraged the idea that she could kill them with her brain."

He laughs laughs loudly now. "Now that's something I would pay to see."


…Serenity's Bridge…

Zoe maintains her vigil at the proximity sensors. She can't shake the feeling that something is going to go wrong. She hears footsteps behind her and she turns to see Kaylee walking up.

"Anything?" Kaylee asks as she steps on the bridge.

"Nothing so far."

"You really think they followed us?" Kaylee ask as she munches on an apple.

Zoe retains her stoic front despite her uneasiness. "I just can't shake the feeling." She walks over to the com and calls up the shuttle. "Serenity to Firefly, you copy baby?"

"Copy you loud and clear, lamby-toes." Wash says through some static.

"I need you to take the remote comm and go find the Captain. I got a feeling we got some company coming our way."


Riddick's POV

"So what's the plan?" River asks me as walk through the tunnels of Crematoria.

I turn and raise my brow at her.

"She wants to hear his voice… instead of imagining it."

I chuckle and then continue walking. "Plan is for Mal and Jayne to clean the bank, ghost the guards, then we break wide through the tunnel. Rig the doors so no one can follow. Wash is waiting in the hanger ready to go and then we are off this rock."

"What's the contingency?" River asks thoughtfully.

I stop and turn and face her. "You won't like it."

Her eyes darken as she pieces together the bits from my mind. "We never do make it easy."



The door opens to the room that Mal and Jayne are in and both instinctively reach for their guns. But as it opens further they are moldy shocked to see Wash, although they don't show it as the guard ushers Wash in and then closes the door. They wait until the door clicks shut before saying anything.

"Something happen?" Mal asks tentatively.

"Zoe has a feeling we got company coming." Wash says as he hands Mal the comm unit he brought with him.

Jayne curses a string of mandarin under his breath as he grips Vera tighter.

"Looks like we are going to Plan B then…Zoe you copy?" He says into the comm.

"Loud and clear, sir." Zoe says.

"Anything yet?" Mal's voice crackles over the comm.

"Party guests pinged our radar a few minutes ago. ETA under 2 hours." Zoe says.

"Ain't nothin ever go smooth for us…" Mal says as before his demeanor shifts into military mode. "Alright people, time for some thrillin' heroics. Zoe you pull Serenity out of here and we will wave you when we clear atmo."

"Affirmative…Going to contingency." She says with remorse in her voice before the comm cuts off.

Jayne walks over to the metal door of the room they are in and bangs on it for the guard to open it. It cracks open and Mal pushes it the rest of the way open as he stomps out.

"Time's up. Get the Warden…I want my money."


…About an hour later on Crematoria…

Mal, Jayne, and Wash walk into the warden's office followed by two guards. The warden stands in front of his desk holding a data pad. "Good news first…Talked things over with my amigos here. We'll cut you in for 775 K." He says as he begins to pace.

"There now, that wasn't so hard." Mal says as he watches the man, he slowly begins to move his hand towards his holster.

"What's the bad news? They close the local whorehouse?" Jayne asks sardonically. No one laughs though and that's when Jayne notices the man emptying out the hidden safe.

"No. The bad news is worse than that…Much worse. Our pilot, he saw this." The warden says as he give the data pad to Mal. "It crossed a shipping lane. Any idea what this might be?"

Mal doesn't flinch outwardly, but in his mind he knows what this means. "Never saw nothin' like it."

"This ship charts back to Helion Prime…You know, Anatoli's got a nose for trouble, and he thinks trouble follows you here."

Both Wash and Jayne share a small glance before they begin to slowly creep towards the blast doors. There is absolute silence around the room, but they do hear the faint sound of bullets being loaded into a clip.

"Look. We dusted our tracks and got the hell outta there. There is no way we didn't lose them." Jayne says hurriedly.

The warden's eyes go big now. "Them? stole a prisoner...from them?"

There is a moment of pure silence before all hell breaks loose.


River's POV

They are walking along the upper walkways when they hear the gunfire erupt. They both quickly look up at the direction of the warden's office and see the flashes of gunfire.

"That's our cue. What's the fastest way up there?" Riddick asks the girl.

"This way." She says as she takes off in a sprint towards one of the pathways to the uppermost walkway.

"Gate will be locked, but we can use some of the lovely corrosive Jayne gave you to blow it open."

Riddick laughs. "Guards were dumb as fuck to not check me themselves."

It doesn't take long to reach the gate. Immediately Riddick takes a small piece of corrosive from the hidden boot compartment out and place it over the lock. They step away as it begins to smoke and eats away at the metal.

Riddick kicks the gate open now and hurries into the next room. The girl follows close behind, but when they get there, neither one of them like what they see.

The room is torn to pieces, there are electrical wires sparking, monitors hanging off the walls and the there is very little light. The begin to scan the room for their crew.

There's blood smeared on the floor and a trail that leads towards the tunnel. That's where they find them. Jayne's bleeding from a bullet wound in his leg and Wash is tying it off…Mal's sitting nearby and has blood dripping from shrapnel cuts on the side of his head.

"Took you two long enough." Jayne says as Wash finishes tying off the wound.

"You both missed out on the party." Mal says with a chuckle.

The girl smiles and throws her arms around him. "Nice to see you again bit." Mal says as he returns her hug.

As she pulls away from Mal, she begins to get a better look at the gash on his head. "You really should be more careful Captain Daddy."

"Yeah, but then it wouldn't have been so thrilling a rescue bit."

"What happened?" Riddick asks as survey's the room and collects his shivs from Wash.

"Necros… guards caught wind of them and started a fight. We had the tunnel secure till the big guy got a lucky shoot off with the rocket launcher." Jayne responds.

"They took off on foot while we were down…sealed it after them." Wash says as the girl moves to collect some shivs from him as well.


Riddick's POV

"How long we got left?" I ask Jayne as I help him to a better spot. He looks at his watch.

"Little over an hour." He says as he tries to stand on his shot leg. He winces before sitting back down.

"You ain't gonna be able to run on that leg Cobb."

"No shit Sherlock."

River looks at me now. Her eyes tell me everything she is thinking…and it's not pretty.

"You sure?" I ask her.

"No other way." She says as her gaze falls to the floor.

I turn to Jayne and Wash who are loading more ammo into their guns. "Wash we need you to stay with Jayne until we can secure the hangar and ghost the guards. You two think you can hold out down here till then?"

"Not like we got much choice in the matter." Jayne says as he tosses River a smaller gun.

"Just don't go forgetting we're down here." Wash says as helps Jayne stand.

"What about the others?" Mal asks as he cocks her head to the stairs River and I came up earlier. They can hear footsteps approaching.

I grimace. "Not fond of a caravan."

River's eyes turn dark. "We may need them."

"There's gonna be one speed…mine." I say as I turn towards the voices coming up the stairs.


…A few minutes later…

River's POV

Only three of them came with besides Mal, the man with the ring and two of the younger prisoners…the others elected to wait with Jayne and Wash for their return. They were wary, but the girl promised they would not forsake them…

Now they were moving as swiftly as possible across the treacherous terrain. They took what weapons they could scrounge from the rubble and carried as much water as they could before they left the safety of of the prison.

Riddick took the lead… bounding over the landscape like the predator that he is…while Mal, the others, and the girl did their best to keep up.

She can feel her mind creeping in on her…the pull of her reality shift and fights desperately to keep it back…she can't lose her sanity now…when she needs it the most. But despite her best efforts fragments seep through her walls…

Change…everything you are,
And everything you were….
Your number has…been called….

…Needles… knives… chains…

She felt them pulling at her skin…pulling at her brain. She fights through tears as she runs after Riddick with Mal close behind her. She can't stop or the visions will consume her.

.Fights….battles have begun….
Revenge will surely come…
Your hard…times are ahead…

She gasps when she feels it though and it knocks the air out of her lungs. She felt what was coming… there was no denying it.

"Keep going bit." Mal yells as he bumps into her.

They twist their way through the maze of rocks and she loses her trail.

"Riddick?" She calls as she turns a corner hoping to see him.

She can't clear her mind and its leading her astray. "Riddick?" The girl calls again.

She's close to screaming now. "Riddick?"

That's when she hears his whistle and looks up…and she pushes the worry and fear back down. He motions for them to climb before he stands and turns away.

"Go, go! Go on! Go! Climb here!" Mal says as he helps her climb.


… Elsewhere…

Anatoli stills as the other four guards run past him. "Boss!" He yells to the warden, who turns and looks.

"Up there." Anatoli says as he points above ground.

The other guards stop running now and look at Anatoli too. "You, take a look." The warden says to the man next to him.

"Because Anatoli says so?"

"Because his nose says so."

The guard grunts and climbs the ladder to the lookout post. The machinery hisses as it pops open.

"There's nothin' up here." He says before Riddick, River, Mal , and the others come into view.

"Oh, shit. Riddick." He yells down as he begins to climb down and the hatch closes. "They're heading right for the volcano fields. They're going for the ship!"

The warden turns and begins running again. "No chance do they get to the hangar first. No chance! Next one! Next hole! We'll catch 'em there!"


River's POV

She feels their eyes watching…she can feel their footsteps hitting the metal underneath them… and she knows what they are planning.

"Riddick!" She yells.

He turns and looks at her.

"The ants are lying in wait." She says as she sprints towards him and gives him the rope she brought with her.

"Where?" He asks.

"At the next look out station. You can beat them there."

She watches as he takes off at full speed to lie in wait.


…Back at the prison…

"Wash…any luck on that comm unit?" Jayne says as he adjusts his position again.

"Still trying, but these things never were my specialty." Wash says as he fiddles with wires underneath the comm table. There are a few cracks of electricity and he curses as he gets a minor shock.

"Remind me to make sure the doc gets a raise after this patch job." Jayne says as he winces.

Wash laughs from under neath the comm table. "Hell may have just frozen over if I heard Jayne Cobb saying someone other than him deserves a raise."

"Haha, laugh it up little man." Jayne says as he tries to get comfortable again.


…Creamtoria's Tunnels…

The guards rush to the next porthole and the Warden quickly signals for Anatoli to climb up. He goes as fast as he can as the warden and others follow. The engage the latch and the machinery hisses as the porthole raises to allow them to look outside.

They wait a minute before River, Mal, and the others come into view.

"No more run for you, trouble." The warden says as Anatoli aims at River.

"But where did the big guy go?" Anatoli asks.

That's when the warden hears a faint whir in the air. "Listen." He says to Anatoli, but before they realize what's happening, Riddick has flung one of the shivs he attached to River's rope into the head of Anatoli, who falls down the ladder to the ground below.

"Ohh shit." The warden says as he and the remaining guards open fire.

River and Mal begin to return fire and bullets ricochet off the metal opening as the run closer.

"Fucking close it!" The warden screams as River runs straight at them.

They close it just before she reaches the hatch.


Riddick's POV

"What the fuck was that River?" I scream at her as we continue running towards the hangar. I hand Mal the rope as he runs by. "You don't care if you live or die?"

"The girl knows today is not her day, why should she care?"

"Maybe I do…I didn't spend two years looking for you to bring back a corpse. Keep moving!" I bellow as we reach the jagged cliffs that separate us from the hangar.

Mal and I have no problem on the steep cliffs due to our height, and after a few minutes have cleared most of the rise. Just as he and I are near the top I can feel a heat building on my back and I turn to see the rising sun.

"Shit." I mutter as I look to see where River is at on the climb. She's a good 20 yards below us.

"River…" I say but she either doesn't hear me or ignores me.

"River!" I yell.

"She knows RICHARD!" She screams back as she continues to climb.

"Get that ass moving then!" I yell as I fear the heat on my skin building quickly.

She and the other prisoners climb faster now, and as Mal and I clear the top, the man with the ring and another guy come up a few seconds later. But that's when the full force of the sun hits us and the rocks begin to sizzle.

I chance a look to see where River is and see her hiding behind a ledge 10 yards down. But that's when the rumbling starts.

"Temperature differential." Mal says behind me.

I turn to Mal. "The rope." He hands it over as the other prisoners look on.

"It's too late. We're never gonna make it to the hangar." The man with the ring says.

"And your water. All of it!" All three of them hand over their water and I quickly throw it over my head.

"Stay in the shadow of the mountain. Don't wait for me. Run!" Mal and the other two begin to run towards the hangar now.

"River in 5 seconds I need you to jump as high as you can." I yell down to her before moving back to get a running start.


River's POV

She feels them… feels the fire rolling in…the flames kissing the mountains. She also feels her mind slipping away again, and struggles to stay in the present. It takes all her mental energy and she forces herself to verbally count to ground herself.

"5…4…3…2…1…" And she jumps as high as possible.

The heat hits her for a moment before she feels his arms grab on to her and carry her up and away. His scent envelops her now and keeps her mind from floating away to the other man below them who burns to a crisp as the fire kisses his skin. But before she can dwell on that thought, they crash on the hard earth above the cliffs. Riddick hovers above the girl now as the water on his skin sizzles now and evaporates instantly.

"You said one speed." She teases as his lips crash on to hers. But before she can enjoy the lingering taste of his lips she feels him yank her up and pulling her along towards the hangar.

"And you pull something like that again I'll kill you myself, dong-ma?" He yells at her as his hand creates a vice like grip on her forearm.

The girl frowns now…knowing he won't have the chance.


AN: Yeah I cut it off before they see the Necros, but I promise to update soon (hides behind shiv proof wall). Till next time ;)