Night Vision

BY : Serra_Ti
Category: M through R > Pitch Black
Dragon prints: 289
Disclaimer: I don't own Pitch Black. All I can claim is Eileen, really; all else is borrowed, and profits me not at all!

Night Vision

A Riddick: Rule the Dark Alternate Universe

Chapter One

More’n likely, th’ screech is what rouses me.  I’m groggy, prob’ly concussed, an’ th’ bits of rock pressin’ against me from all sides ain’t helpin’.  Only thing that ain’t buried is my right hand.  Then I feel tiny vibrations through th’ debris; something’s landed, an’ hops closer.  I let it nip at me a couple times before grabbin’ its neck an’ squeezin’ ‘til it stops movin’.

Dunno how many times I’ve been crossed off th’ list an’ left for dead.  Guess when it first happens th’ day you were born, you’re gonna lose count.  So this… this ain’t nothin’ new.

I dig myself out, an’ one glance tells me that my left leg’s badly broken, tibia an’ fibula both.  Gotta set it soon, before th’ pain gets in deep an’ tightens up th’ muscles too much.  But first, I need t’ find some water.  So, usin’ my hands an’ my right knee, I scoot towards what looks like risin’ water vapor.  It is, an’ I get my hands full, but stop before th’ liquid touches my lips.  Smells strongly of minerals, especially sulfur, an’ it’s hot; some sorta volcanic activity below me, makin’ th’ shit dangerous t’ drink.

Damn it.  Can’t help but slap th’ pool’s surface in frustration before I drag myself toward somethin’ t’ guard my back while I rest a minute.

A distant noise, like a howl, signals th’ end of my break.  So now it’s time t’ realign th’ bum leg.  Lookin’ around, I spot a cleft boulder that looks wide enough t’ wedge my foot into.  I clear some fist-sized stones out first, then get my boot stuck down in it.  Yankin’ up on my knee hurts like a sonuvabitch, an’ I can’t quite stifle my yelp.  Th’ fact that yips respond has me on edge.

Shapes are silhouetted on a distant hillside when I raise my battered shades t’ look, like leggy dogs with weird-ass ears.  Four of ‘em, that head toward me at a run.  I scuttle backwards, hopin’ I can make it back t’ that water before they reach me.  An’ it’s a near thing—three of ‘em stare at me while I let th’ Necro armor’s weight drag me deeper.  Eel things emerge t’ check me out, but a wave of my hands tells ‘em I ain’t food.  One still wiggles under an’ through what’s left of th’ chestplate.  Th’ dog things don’t leave, so I concentrate, makin’ my heartrate slow almost t’ nothin’.  Seems t’ work, too.

Still, I’m wary when I come up.  Every cut an’ abrasion burns, but they’re prob’ly disinfected.  Coast looks clear, an’ I sprawl on th’ ground t’ catch my breath.  A too-close growl reminds me that I saw four of th’ locals in th’ distance, but only three at th’ pool.  Once again, I scramble, this time t’ put stone at my back as th’ critter charges me.  A couple of kicks, then it clamps down on one of my metal bracers, givin’ me a moment t’ look it over.  Big damn dog, its coat irregular stripes of black an’ brown.  Has a dark, shaggy ruff, too; lean like a greyhound, but about th’ same height as th’ spine-cats an’ scale-wolves Eileen an’ I liberated from Crematoria.

Th’ dog-thing pulls th’ bracer off an’ flings it aside, an’ now my kicks ain’t nearly as effective as when th’ fight started, so I feel around an’ come up with a bone.  It definitely don’t like gettin’ smacked on th’ nose with that, an’ backs off once it manages t’ get rid of th’ impromptu weapon.  Long enough for me t’ get vertical, an’ as a last resort, I pop a disc off my armor that looks decorative but also has concealed razor edges.

Ain’t th’ best thing t’ use for a last-ditch defense like this, but I’ll take whatever I can get.  Light reflectin’ off it seems t’ snare th’ critter’s attention, though, an’ that gives me options. I flash it again, then hurl it like a discus.  Th’ dog-thing watches where it goes, looks back at me an’ whines, then sprints after its new play-toy.  I collapse, landin’ on my ass once again, exhausted.  Still can’t rest.

Removin’ th’ greave from my right leg requires tearin’ through th’ straps that secure it.  Got th’ two hinge pins, though.  So, once th’ metal’s lined up t’ splint th’ bones, I carefully shove th’ spikes through th’ trim leather above an’ below th’ break.  It makes me light-headed, another sign that I need clean water t’ drink soon.

At least I have th’ shades my woman got for me all those years ago.  Strap’s broken, but they’re intact, otherwise.  I catch my breath an’ look around before tryin’ t’ get up.  Can see a line of sheer cliffs in th’ distance.  A pair of natural pillars frame a barely-visible break in th’ wall.  It’s as good a place t’ start lookin’ for potable water as any other.

Even set an’ splinted, th’ leg’s slowin’ me down, makin’ me limp.  Don’t feel eyes on me, though; maybe th’ locals decided t’ back off for a bit.  Once I’m closer t’ th’ cliffs, I do another visual examination with my specs on.  There’s a plume of spray comin’ off th’ left wall of th’ gap.  I speed up, ‘cause now I’m feelin’ hot an’ sticky as well as thirsty.

There’re muddy pools all through th’ tiny break in th’ cliffs, prob’ly kept wet by th’ source of th’ waterfall.  A basin’s been worn or carved into a stone at waist height an’ collects plenty of th’ cold, fresh stuff for me t’ drink my fill an’ get rid of most of th’ grime I’ve managed t’ collect.

I’m standin’ under th’ cascade, coolin’ down, when I hear th’ yips again.  Flattenin’ myself against rock, I look around for possible escape routes.  Th’ best-lookin’ one is a very narrow crevice, with layers of stone makin’ a rough stairway.  It’s over on th’ far side of th’ biggest mud-puddle.

But, as it turns out, th’ dog-things ain’t sniffin’ after me in particular.  Nah, there’s some ugly fucks hidin’ in th’ muddy water.  Animals that do a snake-like hiss-an’-sway routine t’ mesmerize a dog that gets close t’ th’ edge.  Then wham!  A two-legged body bursts outta th’ muck, fangs sinkin’ into th’ hindquarters of its victim.  Fucker obviously has venom, ‘cause th’ dog don’t put up much fight before collapsin’ with a whimper an’ goin’ dead still.

An’ then I hear a louder, deeper hiss from behind me—from th’ big mudhole.  Shit. I barely manage t’ roll away an’ get a nearby leg bone between th’ jaws before it can get its teeth into me.  Th’ moment I have room t’ get away, I do, but th’ bug don’t come outta its hole after me.  It tosses th’ bone away an’ crawls back into its watery lair.

That was too damned close.

There are bad days, an’ then there are legendary bad days.  This’s shapin’ up t’ be one of th’ legendary type.  Whole damn planet wants a piece of me.  Can’t stay in th’ open, can’t risk another attack.  Especially not with this leg.  I manage t’ find a cave of sorts in th’ cliff wall.  There were people here once; th’ stone’s definitely been worked, an’ dark-colored line drawings were made on th’ walls.  Drawings that look an awful lot like those mudbugs attackin’ armed folks.  Th’ upright stone in th’ middle of th’ cave is balanced just right for me t’ knock it over so that it helps cover up a too-neat pit.  An’ th’ stone breakin’ the way it does will make a good ‘door’ for this hidey-hole t’ keep things out while I heal up.

It’s always th’ punch ya don’t see comin’ that puts ya down.  But why didn’t I see it?  Why didn’t we see it?  Of course they were gonna try t’ kill us.  Death is what they do for a livin’.  So th’ question ain’t “What happened?”

Th’ question is “What happened t’ us?”

How did they get so close?  How did we let ‘em blindside us like that?  Necromongers.  Pfft.  Some wanted t’ put a crown on my head.  Some wanted t’ put a noose around my neck.  Okay, yeah, more nooses than crowns.  But me, th’ girls, Niklas, th’ scale-wolves an’ spine-cats, we were watchin’ each other’s backs.  Weird as it was, I knew that Niklas could be trusted not t’ turn on us.  He’d kinda become part of th’ Pack, in all honesty.

We’d needed a way out.  Some new place.  Or, maybe, just an old one.  But Niklas can’t navigate for shit.  Says he’s been back an’ forth enough, an’ enough worlds are dead, that he’s not sure which way t’ look anymore.  On th’ plus side, he told us why th’ Necros would want us outta th’ way.  But how do you find somewhere you’ve never seen?

~*~

(Much Earlier)

“They’ll never let you stand at the Threshold of their Underverse unless you embrace their twisted ‘faith’.”  Ev’ry time th’ subject of th’ Necros’ religion comes up, th’ blond man looks like he wants t’ spit.  “That’s why the assassins keep coming after us.  They view us as something wrong, cursed.”  Niklas turns t’ face th’ viewport, an’ one of th’ spine-cats noses its way under his hand for a scratch.  “Illegitimate.”

“What’re ya gonna do when you’re born that way?” I ask.

“Lord Fergan and Lady Arella had been properly mated for several years before you came along,” he stars t’ protest hotly.  Then he turns an’ sees Jack smotherin’ laughter.  He glares daggers at me; it’s not th’ first time I’ve yanked his chain on this subject.

At least I know my parents’ names now, an’ that I was wanted by ‘em.  An’ Eileen knows about hers, too.  She ain’t aware of how well Jack an’ I can see that knowin’ more about her kin makes her feel secure in her own skin, and I ain’t about t’ enlighten her.

Somethin’ makes a noise outside th’ rooms we’ve been all but shoved into.  I don’t need Niklas’ suddenly stiff posture t’ tell me somethin’s not right.  Couple of steps takes me t’ th’ doors, an’ a swipe of my hand clears enough t’ show that our ‘honor guard’ is still where they should be.

~What th’—~  My side burns suddenly, an’ I turn my head t’ find th’ cleanin’ girl stickin’ a blade into me.  She’s miscalculated her aim, though.

“Shoulda gone between th’ fourth an’ fifth ribs if ya wanted his heart,” Jack quips, grabbin’ a handful of sweet dates an’ poppin’ one into her mouth.  “Add a little twist at th’ end, if ya wanna make sure.”  Th’ Necro girl’s eyes go wide as she looks up at me.

“Fifth an’ sixth…”  I grab her hand so tight around th’ knife that her face screws up in pain while I pull th’ metal outta my flesh.

“Body cavity,” Eileen finishes, havin’ snuck up behind th’ sorry little bitch.  She holds th’ girl while I gut her with her own sorry-ass weapon.

When Commander Vaako shows up a few minutes later—followed by th’ ugly sonuvabitch who’s always on his heels lately—I’m sittin’ in th’ fancy-ass throne they stuck in here with us, actin’ like I’m examinin’ th’ date now decoratin’ th’ Necro girl’s little spike.  Jack’s sprawled across th’ too-fuckin’-big bed on her stomach, kickin’ her heels in th’ air, an’ Eileen’s ‘lounging’ against th’ viewport frame near Niklas.

“Making new friends, I see.”  Th’ First Among Commanders toes th’ coolin’ corpse.

“Who put her up t’ it?”  With Vaako, at least, I can ask a straight question an’ get an almost-straight answer back.  “Which commander?”

“It could be any of many.”

“We don’t doubt that for a second… Commander Vaako,” my lover purrs, injectin’ fake suspicion into her voice as she stresses his rank.  She knows as well as I do that he’s th’ only full Necro we can even halfway trust—Niklas don’t count.  We’ve learned that much, at least, in th’ year we’ve been here.

“Milady?”

“They say ya lost your nerve, Vaako, after that big swing an’ a miss.”  Somehow, Jack knows just how t’ needle him.  Might be th’ month he spent tryin’ t’ talk her into convertin’.

“Is that what they say?”  Okay, yeah, he’s a cool customer.

“Now what’re ya gonna do t’ get that cred back?” I ask, slowly standin’ an’ joinin’ my mate.  I can smell Vaako’s surprise when he sees th’ blood on the padded chair back.  “What’s th’ big play?  Somethin’ splashy?”

“Actually…”  He pauses before steppin’ past th’ throne.  “I had in mind something different.  I’ve been thinking about an early campaign, my very first.  I was but a boy.”  How interestin’.  This happens, an’ suddenly he decides t’ open up.  “We dropped from the sky and did what Necromongers do.  The destruction was breathtaking.  But then… we met resistance.”

Eileen cocks her head t’ indicate that at least one of us is payin’ attention, though we’re all riveted.

“Furious, like a storm of lions.  Each one of them killed over a hundred Necros before their weapons failed.”  Niklas’ scent goes hard an’ cold.  “And then they killed another thirty more, barehanded.”  Vaako steps even closer.  “Our firepower and strength in numbers eventually won us the day.  I can still see him, the last of those magnificent warriors, standing on a pile of his own.  He looked at me, and I will never forget those eyes.”  He pauses, an’ I turn t’ face him.  “His eyes were just like yours.  The planet was Furya.”

“We know what it’s called.”  Dunno why I’m suddenly snarlin’ mad at him.

“You just don’t know where it is.”

“We need maps, charts.”  Eileen’s soundin’ pissy, too.

“Impossible.”

“I need a direction.”  My growl draws him up short.

“Purged from all records, as you know.”  Yes, we’d checked.  All four of us had spent hours goin’ through th’ Necro archives.  Furya was th’ only world never mentioned in ‘em.

“But you know where.”  There’s my woman’s menacin’ purr again.

“So many worlds…”  Smellin’ a very faint hint of deceit, my hand with th’ spike whips it out t’ lay against Vaako’s throat.  His chin goes up slightly, an’ a slow fire sparks in those cold eyes.  “The only map left in existence is the one that’s in my head, Riddick!” he snaps.

“So whaddya want?  Th’ crown?”  Jack’s on her feet now, stalkin’ silently closer.  But th’ commander twitches a hand at his new flunky.

“Transcendence,” he whispers before raisin’ his voice again.  “Krone, break off a ship.  Riddick’s going home.”

~*~

‘Transcendence.’  Guess that’s Necro-speak for ‘Get th’ fuck off our ship an’ make it forever.’  Fine by us.  Can’t blame him for danglin’ Furya.  Home has a certain… equity, even when ya don’t remember it.  But I do blame him for what came next.

~*~

Shades coverin’ my eyes, I get outta th’ Necro frigate, steppin’ into warm sunlight an’ a brisk wind.  Krone is waitin’ on th’ mesa with three grunts.  Eileen an’ Jack ain’t right behind me, for a change; somethin’s jammed on th’ kid’s armor, an’ they’re tryin’ t’ fix it.  Vaako wasn’t waitin’ outside our quarters t’ escort us, either.  I’ve gotta bad feelin’ ‘bout this.  Still, could be th’ planet my parents called ‘home.’

I don’t like that we had t’ leave Niklas an’ the four-leggers with th’ fleet, either.  Man had a point, though—crammin’ our friends on a ship th’ size of a frigate for a month an’ a half, with it packed full of Necros, would make for a lotta dead meat an’ nowhere t’ put it before it started t’ rot.  He promised, though, that he’d make Vaako tell him where t’ take th’ Den when th’ commander returns.  Said he’s got an ace up his sleeve, in case somethin’ goes bad.

“It’s a long way to come, for this,” Krone yells over th’ howlin’ wind.  Don’t look like much grows ‘round here.  I walk toward th’ edge.  Somethin’s not right.  I go t’ one knee, scoop up a fistful of gritty soil, an’ take a whiff.

Instead of Furya, we’ve wound up somewhere called ‘Not Furya’.  Th’ grunts start movin’, an’ I raise my fist, still holdin’ th’ dirt, in a military signal for ‘halt’.  My other hand pulls a few throwin’ knives where they can’t see as I let th’ dirt dribble away.

Then somebody takes a shot with their damn grav gun.  Fucker can’t aim for shit, ‘cause he misses me by a klick.  I slip ‘round t’ th’ far side of a big rock, settle into myself, then pop back out into th’ open, blades flyin’ at two grunts.  One hits th’ mark, plungin’ through an eye an’ into th’ brain.  Other’s just a little off, at th’ join of neck an’ shoulder.  I ram that Necro, retrievin’ th’ knife t’ sever his spine.  Duck t’ th’ left as a grav blast obliterates his head.  I send th’ little blade off a second time, catchin’ th’ last grunt in th’ throat.  Hafta take shelter behind th’ rock again.

Yet again, someone’s tryin’ t’ play me an’ my Pack.  Fuck only knows what’s happenin’ t’ my girls on that damn frigate, let alone Niklas an’ th’ four-leggers.  So, yet again, we play for blood.  I draw my last throwin’ knife, reachin’ out where Krone’ll see an’ gesturin’ for him t’ come closer.

Fuck-face starts t’ obey, then pauses an’ backs away.  I hear him firin’ grav guns at somethin’, feel th’ rock under an’ behind me tremble.  Then it seems t’ just drop out from under me, an’ I go tumblin’ after it.

“You keep what you kill, Riddick!” I faintly hear Krone shout as I fall.  “You keep what you kill!”  After that, there’s only pain an’ darkness.

~*~

(Now)

I wake again, my stomach gnawin’ at my spine, an’ feel for th’ broken leg.  Must’ve gone into some sorta healin’ trance, ‘cause it’s not even tender.  Explains why I’m starvin’.  Don’t take much effort t’ move th’ stone away, less than it took getting’ in.  ‘Nother sign that my body’s fixed itself up while my mind wandered.

An’ just like that, a face flashes in my memories; I barely keep myself from reachin’ for a hand that ain’t physically present.  Somehow, I’m sensin’ Eileen, wherever she ended up after I got ditched here.  She ain’t as tightly wrapped as usual, an’ it’s got somethin’ t’ do with us bein’ apart.  It’s like bein’ able t’ touch me, skin t’ skin, keeps her sane.  Maybe me, too.

“Don’t lose it, babe,” I murmur, even though she can’t possibly hear me.  “Don’t you dare let this break ya.”

There’s one thing I got faith in, one in th’ whole ‘verse.  I believe in my Pack: my woman, her adopted sister, th’ man we got out of a livin’ hell, an’ now th’ man who hid among th’ enemy for thirty years so he’d be around t’ help us.  Somehow, they’ll manage t’ make their way here, t’ what I’m callin’ ‘Not-Furya’.

It may take a while.  Hell, for all I know, it could take years.  But Eileen an’ Jack, at least, will get here.

So it’s my responsibility t’ survive so they don’t make th’ trip for nothin’.  An’ th’ first step is t’ ensure that I ain’t reliant on th’ Necro equipment I still got.

Which means I start over with only what I had when I came into th’ ‘verse.  My body, my mind, an’ my instincts, th’ genetic legacy of Furya.  An’ when night falls, I climb a palisade of rock under th’ light of a burnin’ planetary body, without a stitch on.

Somewhere along th’ way, we lost a step.  Got sloppy.  Dulled our own edge.  Maybe we went an’ did th’ worst crime of all—we got too civilized.  So now we zero th’ clock.  Me, alone, on this no-name world, my girls out there somewhere searchin’.

Gotta find my animal side again.



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