BY : Chriscent
Category: M through R > Pitch Black
Dragon prints: 247
Disclaimer: I don't own Riddick or anything from Pitch Black. I don't make money one this.

~Chapter 1~


The shelves had been restocked, and neatened, and the automops were out.  The low round machines worked back and forth across the floor methodically.  Very little in the store was automated, the cost was beyond her limits.  But she’d splurged on the automops, just because she hated doing the floors.  It was also very time-consuming and she had better things to do with her time.


She was just heading down the stairs to those better things when sirens and flashing lights brought Jea to the front of the shop.  It was after dark, after closing, and the street outside was dark and empty, except for the two official vehicles.  One had large sides that displayed a bulletin.  Another criminal on the loose.  Stay indoors, lock up, basically it said hide, cower, and keep quiet.  It also showed a grainy picture of the supposed fugitive and listed a few generic crimes.


Jea watched the progression, wincing at the high-pitched siren when it reached the top of its warble.  Her eyes rolled as she read the alleged crimes of this newest hunted man.  ‘Obstruction of Justice’ was the first and most prominent offense.  


“Justice is dead,” she whispered, her breath fogging the door’s glass for just a moment.


The Sat-Com pinged and with a resigned sigh she made her way behind the counter to stand before the monitor, making sure her ID was showing.  Seconds later an alert appeared, the same one from the vehicle.  The sirens in the street couldn’t compete with the ear-shattering beeps that came out of the monitor’s speakers.  


Jea covered her ears, but didn’t leave the place before the monitor until the message had started to replay and the light on the side of the screen turned green.  


The Sat-Com was a government installation.  It was for her ‘Security and Protection’.  At least that’s what everyone had been told when they’d been mandatory in every home, one for each resident over the age of five.  Sometimes as often as once a day an official alert came over the Sat-Com.  Some news that she couldn’t live without, for her Security and Protection. All the criminals looked suspiciously similar, their alleged crimes vague, nondescript.  And then no report was ever given that they were captured, that she was now ‘safe’.  


Jea had work to do.  She owned and operated one of the only shops in the city that sold fresh meat and produce.  Meat was hard to find on most worlds, especially fresh.  And fresh vegetables available in a store were a luxury most people didn’t have.  Jea provided both, as well as a large selection of grocery, hardware, household, and even some curio items.  Not everyone traded in credits.  She had a wide selection for sale, and she single-handedly worked the store.  It was a lot of work, but it was her life.


For the next few hours Jea worked in the building’s sub-levels.  She cared for a large hydroponic garden, many rows of different fruits and vegetables at different stages of maturity.  Then there were the animals to butcher.  It was a strange arrangement, but Jea had found the easiest way to provide fresh meat was to bring the livestock in alive and butcher it herself.  It made for more work, keeping live animals, but it was worth it.  Since she was in the city and didn’t have space to keep the livestock outdoors, there was a portion of the lowest level divided into stalls.  She even kept chickens for eggs and bred a few small animals.


Jea couldn’t explain it, even to herself, but she loved butchering animals.  Even the first cut, the kill, was satisfying to her.  After the hide was cut away in one neat piece and the innards had been removed, many of the organs saved whole, she got to work the flesh.  She designed her own tools, liking the heft of a certain knife, or the edge of a specific blade.  It was messy work, blood and guts, but she enjoyed all of it.  The smell of the fresh meat and blood was soothing to her, as if on a primal level.  It made her feel stronger, powerful, superior, as well as some lesser feelings.  It turned her on, and made her feel reckless.


It had been in the cooled room of her butcher area that she’d first started playing with her knives.  Not knives.  They were her tools, her hobby, her passion, and even her companions.  It made her smile to think of them so possessively, but it wasn’t wrong either.


As if to prove to herself that she wasn’t psychotic she threw one of the blades.  It stuck, quivering, tip buried in the narrow edge of a board she’d put up for the purpose, a dozen meters away.


“No, not crazy.”


She cleaned herself and her area.  Her work table drained into a bucket that was near its limit, but she decided to leave it for now.  It would keep for one more day in the chilled room.


Her apron and jacket, both smeared with blood, were hung in a sealed locker.  They would be clean and sanitized the next time she needed them.


The shop was on the ground level.  Several floors below were designated for different purposes.  Above were her living quarters.


A sound at the back door reminded Jea of her nightly ritual of benevolence.  As the city slept animals crept through the streets looking for sustenance.  It was illegal to feed them, but Jea had been approached by a young wildcat one night and had been taking it scraps ever since.  The cat was wild and shouldn’t let a human get so close to it.  It was amazing how motivating starvation could be.


She opened the back door onto the alley and smiled at the shining eyes that greeted her.  “Hey, sweetie.  I brought you something.”


The cat didn’t cautiously approach her as it had before, but stayed deep in the shadows behind the dumpster.


Jea was tired and didn’t feel like cajoling the animal out of hiding.  “I’ll just leave it here.  You better get it before something else does.”


She backed into the door and was closing the door when the cat stepped out.  But it didn’t run forward like she expected.  Instead it turned its back to her.  The way its head was down and its tail twitched made her think it had found something interesting.


All this passed through her head in an instant, none of it stopping her from letting the door slowly close.


What was more interesting than raw scraps from a fresh kill?


The door stopped just before it slammed shut.  Jea pressed it open further and watched the animal.  It had definitely found something, and had even circled some to continue whatever it was doing to it, eating, licking, it was impossible for her to tell.


Jea suddenly remembered the vehicle and the Sat-Com alert.  She’d never once hesitated in opening the back door, not tonight or any other night.  




The cat looked up, but when she didn’t move or speak again it went back to whatever it was doing.


Jea told herself to close the door and go to bed.  It was the smart thing to do, plus there were a dozen other really good reasons to not care what that wildcat had found.  Good reasons, many of them having to do with her safety and legal freedom, and her sleep.  All of these reasons filled her mind, logical and convincing reasons.


Yet she found herself releasing the lock so she could enter the building if the door closed with her outside.  Then she stepped out into the black alley.


The cat didn’t trust her enough to let her approach it, without food.  It took off, running a ways down the alley to stare back at her with glowing eyes, eyes that seemed to be hostile now.


There was a light at the back door of her store, but it was in her eyes and made the shadow behind the dumpster darker, impenetrable.


Jea leaned forward, hoping to use her own shadow to allow her to see.  She’d discovered that she knew many synonyms for the word idiot, and called herself every one of them.


She was about to tuck tail and run.  This was stupid, and probably illegal.  The alerts had told her to stay indoors.  She doubted there’d be much sympathy for anyone caught not obeying that very sensible order.


Eyes blinked at her from the blackness and she jerked back.  She didn’t gasp or run, in fact, it worked to do the exact opposite.  She’d been trying to make out the shape, which was actually just determining one shadow from another, and the appearance of the eyes orientated what she was seeing.  It was a person, a man.


As quickly as the glint of eyes appeared they disappeared.


Jea looked both ways down the alley.  Only the cat was there, now licking one of his paws, patiently waiting for her to leave she presumed.  She stepped into the darkness behind the dumpster and crouched beside the fallen man.


Now she could see.  He wasn’t just fallen.  He was nearly dead.  She could smell the after-burn of phaser shots, the guns used by the local law enforcement.  Since no civilian was allowed to have firing weapons it was easy to assume this man was the wanted fugitive.


Without considering why Jea checked his pulse and breathing.  His injuries were extensive.  Without care he would die within a matter of hours, maybe minutes.


Phaser burns didn’t go deep, not like bullets, but they were excruciating, continuing to burn the flesh well after the shot had been fired.  The point of the weapon was to immobilize without fatally harming the victim.  The shots didn’t bleed, much, the after-burn neatly cauterized the wound.  One or two shots would take a man down, most screaming in pain from the second-degree burns.  


Jea counted at least eight shots on the man’s flesh, some overlapping.  She didn’t have to be a genius to know that this man wasn’t supposed to be alive.  He was near death and that had been the plan.  More than a couple shots could, in theory, be fatal, to have a dozen or more…  They’d been shooting to kill, and painfully so.


Somewhere, streets over, the alert vehicles passed an opening between buildings that echoed their message down to her for just a second.  With wide guilty eyes she looked back and forth down the alley.  If she were caught with this man…


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