A Firefly in the Pitch Black: Chapter 6
Thursday, March 20, 2008

River and Riddick have a Close Encounter with the Ugly Kind....


The survivors were locked inside the only secure part of the ship, huddled together, trapped like cavemen in their cave, listening to the howls of hungry sabertooths outside, clamoring for blood.

Jack, Fry and Shazza sat on the floor with their backs against the wall of the Cargo Hold, listening to the sounds of hell outside. The clicking sounds the creatures made were enough to put the fear of God and Buddha in their hearts as they remained silent.

Iman and his two disciples stood by the doors, eyes wide, the leader listening to the sounds outside while the two younger Arabs sent silent prayers to Muhammad, Allah and Jesus Christ for their salvation.

Paris stood close to the boy and women sitting on the ground, pale as paper and shaking like a leaf in the wind.

Kaylee must have realized this, because she placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder, and the man with the wire-frames gave her a shaky smile of thanks.

River stood between Riddick and Johns, both men silent, one thanks to his mental barrier and the other thanks to his brain’s silence, and she felt grounded in the silence. But the young woman couldn’t help but notice the looks Johns was giving her, and it made her somewhat uncomfortable.

“What are we going to do?” Jack asked, breaking into the silence. “Are we going to wait it out and hope they don’t breech the hull?”

“ It might be a good idea.” Paris turned to Fry and then looked at Johns, the self-proclaimed leaders of their little group.

“’Spose that’s what the group in the Coring Room thought too.” Riddick announced in a flat voice.

Everyone in the crash ship flinched visibly at the reminder of the millions of bones picked clean they’d discovered at the bottom of the shaft.

“Well, we can’t wait it out anyway.” Fry spoke up to try and kill the silence. “The chart said the darkness lasted for days. Those predators will get to us if we don’t die of dehydration before.”

Another silence descended on them as they let that knowledge, and the dread, sink in.

“We’re going to die.” Paris bemoaned loudly. “We’re all goin’ ta bloody die!”

“Hushit!” Shazza snapped at the antiques dealer when she saw the terror in Jack’s eyes. “We aren’t goin’ ta die! It jus’ ain’t going ta be easy from hereon out, but we’ll find a way.”

Still, River could hear the doubts roaming in her head as the clicking outside grew louder.

“Well, I’m sorry if I am the realistic one here!” Paris’ voice was loud and irritating. “But I am a dealer of the antique---most of what I sell once belonged to tribes or nationalities that no longer exist. So you’ll understand that I’m a little distressed that I am about to go extinct as well!”

“Quiet everyone. Please!” Iman hissed from where he stood by the Cargo Hold’s door, listening out.

The others piled up alongside him, ears tuned like radars. A clicking sound, closer than the others had been, swept by outside.

They’d been located.

“Why do they do that?” Jack whispered, voice trembling. “Make that sound?”

“Eyes dark to the world are useless, voice and sense must take over.” River read their minds as her gaze lowered to the hunting boomerang in her hand, realizing with frustration that no one could understand her.

“When will she ever make sense?” Paris wailed, echoing the thoughts of most of the people in the Cargo Hold.

Iman suddenly paused. “Perhaps she means that it’s the way they see, with sound. They send out sound waves that reflect back and give them a ‘look’ of their surroundings, like Earth-that-was’ bats.”

River beamed at the holy man.

“Echo-location.” Fry blinked in realization, running a hand through her hair. “That’s what it is…”

More clicking interrupted her, yet the clicking was coming from behind them.

Johns and Fry, the ones holding the lights, twirled around to find nothing but the door of an open container about halfway down the tunnel-like hold.

A volley of uneasy looks passed between them, “How the fuck did one get in here?”, they seemed to ask each other.

“Maybe it was a breech in the hold.” Fry answered the unspoken question. “I don’t know.”

More clicking filled the otherwise silent air.

Everyone’s gaze turned to Johns, who’d been the only one with enough sense to bring his weapons with him---other than River with the hunting boomerang and Iman with his ceremonial dagger.

The blonde’s trouble gaze was on the darkness passed the containers, and when he noticed the silence he turned and nearly jumped when he noticed every single eye on him.

Realizing that they wanted him to go and check it out, he shook his head vehemently. “I’d rather piss glass.”

“Well, you got the big gauges,” Riddick drawled, seeming damned amused with the other man’s situation.

Johns turned and glared at him hatefully. “Wanna rag your fat mouth?”

“Maybe it’s just their beads again.” Jack announced hopefully, motioning to the Chrislams. The first couple of minutes inside the Cargo Hold they’d realized that the beads the Chrislams wore on their clothes made clicking sounds that sounded similar to those of the creatures outside.

It’d scared the shit out of them until they’d finally realized where the clicking sound was coming from.

“No, no, no.” Iman shook his head. “I do not believe---.”

“C’mon man,” Johns turned on Iman, obviously preferring to believe the clicking was once more because of the beads and not because a monster had made its way into their little sanctuary. “You’re drivin’ everybody bugfuck with those things. Why don’t you just lose the gorram---.”

More clicking interrupted his speech---along with toppling cargo somewhere in the darkness.

Everyone jumped, trying to peer into the darkness behind them.

“Big beads.” Riddick deadpanned.

Johns still refused to move.

“I’ll do it.” River announced as she tightened her grip on her hunting boomerang and took a step towards the darkness and the container when Riddick’s hand shot out, his grip tight and unforgiving around her upper arm, keeping her safely within the ring of light and by his side.

Kaylee shook her head at Johns. “Da chong wu dan.”

The mercenary turned to Kaylee a glare for having said he had ‘a big gun, but no bullet’, knowing she hadn’t been referring to the shotgun or pistol he had on him.

As if trying to prove her wrong, he butched up, and sucked on his breather before passing his light to Paris and shimmying towards the open container. Leading with his pistol, he didn’t dare leave the circle of light cast by the two lights and fired blindly into the open door of the container.

Something squealed horribly and then there was silence.

“Someone bring a gorram light.” He hissed, and since Paris wouldn’t budge, Fry went to him.

Once Johns was in the direct path of the light, he eased his head towards the door to spot a few hatchlings on the floor, blasted into dog food.

He sighed in relief and turned to the others. “Okay, We’re okay. Just some small ones that musta---.”

River sensed it and looked up at the darkness above the two blondes in time to see something whoosh for Johns’ head, swinging like a scythe. It caught the pistol instead, discharging it, sending it flying into the nothingness far outside the ring of light.

Paris screamed like a girl, and would have dropped his light if Jack hadn’t caught it before it hit the ground.

In a second both blondes were back with the others and Fry had her light turned in the direction of the attacker, giving them a first, close-up view of an adult predator.

The creature screeched as the light fell upon it and swooped into the shadows.

“Not staying here another---.” Paris didn’t even finish the sentence before going for the main-lever to the Cargo Hold’s door, ready to open it and flee into the night.

Shazza rushed to her feet and lunged for the little man, wrapping her arms around him, locking his arms at his side, and in a surprising show of strength, pulled him bodily away from the door.

“Lemme go! Lemme go, dammit!” Paris kicked and tried to get away, but Kaylee had thrown herself in front of the door with her arms outstretched, letting him know that if he did get loose from Shazza, he wasn’t getting passed her.

“You idiot!” Shazza let go of the struggling man, who hadn’t been ready for her change of tactics and fell to the ground. “You saw what was out there!”

“I saw what’s in here too!” He cried out, hurrying to his feet, looking from the darkness around them to Kaylee, the girl blocking his access to the door gave him a ‘just try it’ glare.

River ignored them and instead searched the darkness for the pistol. Was everyone else suddenly going to forget that they needed it just because the darkness had swallowed it greedily?

Spying a glint of silver in the darkness, River calculated its distance from the light, the fact that there were an undecided amount of creatures in the darkness, and her probabilities of getting said pistol and getting back to the light with all of her extremities, and her life.

The chances weren’t very optimistic.

“Everybody come, this way and we should be safe.” Iman announced, pointing to a container. “Hurry, please.”

In the back of the group, River was glad when Riddick let go of her arm and took a half step in front of her. The path led to where the pistol had been tossed and forgotten. With a swift movement she jolted out of the light, gripped the metal, warmed from its previous use, and slipped back into the light before the survivors realized what had happened…but not before something had tried swiping at her hand and missing by an inch when she’d reached for the weapon.

Clicking on the ‘safe’ mode, she shoved it into the waist of her pants and pulled out her shirt to cover it. She didn’t want Johns, or anyone else, realizing that she’d retrieved the weapon. Their ignorance would be an advantage. This way she could keep the bullets for when they were truly needed, and not every time they saw a shadow.

Allowing herself to be shepparded into a large container, River felt Kaylee’s hand wrap around hers when the door was slammed close.

Jack made a noise and shook his breather unit before cursing softly, putting it down without making a sound other than his nervous wheezing, trying to breathe yet terrified to make a sound and give away their location at the same time.

River passed him the breather unit she had yet to use, and shared a slight smile with the boy who gratefully took it.

There was the sound of a long scratch against metal, drawing everyone’s gaze towards it.

Johns fumbled with a cutting torch abandoned on the ground and got it burning, adjusting the gas to give them better light in time for scythe-like blades to begin pounding against the metal. Suddenly heavy blows, denting the metal, drove everyone back.

“Can you do sumpin’ else with that?” Riddick hissed. “Other than shine it in my face?”

Taking the hint, Johns started cutting the common wall between containers with the cutting torch. It was a race between the sparks of his cutter and the blades that were now making slice holes in the seemingly indestructible metal.

A burn-outlined showed the progress of his work, and when Johns kicked out the escape hatch the first one shoved through was Jack. The others quickly speed-crawled through and Johns got to burning the other common wall as the predators were beginning to shred through the other wall.

Again and again they burnt escape hatches and managed to get through, piling up whatever cargo they could find against them right before the bloodthirsty creatures on their trail broke through to the container before theirs, clicking, sweeping, hunting.

It was going to be a long night.


Inside of their fifth container now, Johns torched away. The mercenary was obviously glad for the distraction, thus enabling himself to keep from being the chicken-shit Riddick knew he usually became when the going went tough.

Paris, Fry, Kaylee and Shazza used the cargo in the room to block the entrance hole—then blocked the cargo with their own bodies.

River had been helping up until that moment, but she pushed away, shadows playing on her frowning face, as she went to the wall and placed her palm against the cool metal. She sniffed the air and turned around, frowning at something on the ground.

Riddick followed her gaze and narrowed his eyes at the dark substance. With two long strides he’s bent over it and ran his forefinger through it, bringing the substance to his nose and taking an experimental whiff.


Cold dread filled him as he suspected the worst and turned, leaving the others.

“Where the hell in he going?” Paris could be heard asking someone.

“Probably scoutin’ the place,” Shazza answered, her voice strained. “He can see in the dark, ‘member?”

Riddick moved to the front of the container, where the darkness prevailed. Something squished under foot and he slipped off his goggles.

There were dead hatchlings on the floor.

All of Riddick’s fears had proven true.

This was the open container Johns had fired into.

Sensing energy, Riddick lifted his face slowly.

There was an adolescent predator squatting over cargo, eating a hatchling.

Apparently, not only were they carnivorous, but cannibalistic as well.

Surprisingly enough, only one sentence entered Riddick’s mind at that moment.

Damn, they’re ugly.

As if sensing Riddick, it raised its hammer-head and swept the area with loud clicks. The creature unfurled itself from its meal and looked down at Riddick, gazes clashing in a deadly stare. It didn’t move to attack the Furyan, yet seemed to challenge his superiority, as a male sensing a rival male in his territory and trying to prove his dominance.

Also, the fact that this was an adolescent, solitary creature meant that while it was fighting for supremacy it was still encoded with the urge to submit to a more dominant male.

Riddick just had to prove to him that he was that dominant male.

Thus he narrowed his eyes and continued with the stare-down, allowing his inner beast to shine through his eyes and take over.

It seemed as if forever and a minute passed as they continued to stare defiantly into each other’s eyes, and when the other creature flinched away it would have seemed as if he were about to win and escape with his life---but that was when he sensed another creature on the cargo above him.

Riddick cursed all the fates.

There was no way he could outstare or outrun these creatures. He was going to die like some snack for some gorram----.

There was a gasp, and he growled, sensing both creatures look away from him and pay attention to the other person who’d walked into the feast-to-be.

“Don’t. Move.” He ordered, keeping his gaze on the predator before him, sensing the other jump onto the cargo above River. The murderer tried to keep the attention of the first predator on him, yet both creatures seemed intent on River, and the younger creature left him as well, going on the cargo on the other side of the first predator. Both were intent on the shivering girl who couldn’t see them, yet obviously sensed their presence.

The second, older predator reached down with its scythe-like blade, probing her as if trying to discover what she was made of.

The first predator jumped to the ground before the violently trembling girl, trapping her gaze as it had Riddick, and raising one of its claws, slowly running it down her arm, slicing through her sleeve and causing a trail of blood to appear…

The elder predator clicked as it took a swipe at her hair from its perch above, grasping some of the black tendrils and tugging up viciously, arching her neck painfully towards its salivating mouth.

The predator in front of her lowered its head to her arm and its snake-like tongue escaped, running up and down the slice-mark, drinking up the blood, making slurping noises as it sucked on the short yet deep wound.

She didn’t react. Her eyes were wide and empty.

Riddick cursed.

She’d gone into shock.

And for some reason the creatures had sensed her the moment she’d arrived and focused all their attentions on her---forgetting all about Riddick.

And that had been their first mistake.

Reaching for his bone-shiv, Riddick gripped it by the blade, aimed, and threw it with all his might. The aim was true and the creature slurping on the blood on her screamed as the weapon pierced it from behind.

The elder creature looked up, confused, letting go of its hold on River’s hair.

Riddick took advantage of the opportunity and ran towards them, grabbing the shiv still embedded in the back of the fallen creature and slicing the creature’s it’s back as he pulled the shiv out. The murderer grabbed a still motionless River’s arm and pulled her quickly after him towards where he’d left the others.

There was a shriek of rage from the elder creature as it realized its sibling had been killed and its prey taken from its very claws.

Riddick could feel it hurrying after them, felt it gaining up on them, and right before it pounced Fry and Kaylee appeared, and Fry’s light shone into Riddick’s eyes blinding him.

With a howl of pain he went down, dragging River down with him.

And behind him a squeal of agonized pain erupted as the light fell upon the creature which had pursued them in the darkness. The sound of wings was interrupted by yet another scream and a loud thud, a human cry, and a metallic clang.

The murderer pulled his goggles over his eyes and willed the horrible headache to go away. His arms were around a still and silent River, subconsciously protecting her body with his, and if it wasn’t for the rapid beating of her heart he would have wondered if she were dead.

Looking up when the light encompassed them once more, Riddick met Kaylee’s frightened gaze.

“What happened?” She cried, falling to her knees next to them, tears of fear in her eyes as she realized that her friend was bleeding.

“I went out to check on something, she must have followed me.” Riddick sat up, dragging the deadweight that was River up with him. “I was surrounded by two of the muthafuckas when she came, and they---they forgot all about me.”

Kaylee’s eyes were filled with worry as she let that sink in. “A huge chunk of her hair was chopped off.” She noticed what Riddick hadn’t. “There’s a small cut in her neck.”

“And her arm.”

Shazza hurried towards them, the hunting boomerang River had been using in her hand. “How is she?” She asked, pale and frightened, throwing herself to her knees next to them much like Kaylee had. “She---she gave me her boomerang when she went to look for you and told me that I’d need it. I—I—it’s impossible to catch! It nearly took off my head when it whirled back!”

“She knew what was going to happen.” Kaylee whispered, eyes widening, ignoring the latter part of what Shazza had just said.

Riddick frowned as he turned to look at the others, who were standing over the decapitated body of the creature Shazza had obviously killed with the hunting boomerang. They were more interested in figuring out why it had burnt so badly when the light had touched it than if River was fine.

“Damned idiot,” he growled, referring to the girl shivering in his arms, whom he was unknowingly crushing in his hold. “If you knew that this was going to happen why the hell did you go there?”

“The night was to stab the wolf in his back, he is one with the darkness and shouldn’t be betrayed.” River whispered, finally blinking, returning from wherever she’d escaped to within her mind when she’d entered shock.

If Shazza found the fact that Kaylee and Riddick had basically said that River could see the future surprising, she didn’t show it. She just looked worried. “We should get you bandaged up.”

Jack suddenly appeared by their side. “River! Are you okay?” He saw the blood and his eyes went. “You’re hurt!” He turned to Riddick and then smiled. “Riddick saved you.”

River frowned as she looked at the boy. “Voice an octave wrong. Adam lost his apple.”

Jack’s eyes widened and he took a step backwards.

Riddick looked up at the little boy and smirked. He’d thought there was something off with him…her. And it was true; now that he thought about it, the child didn’t have a pronounced Adam’s Apple like men did.

“I wonder what she’s talking about.” Kaylee whispered, obviously thinking Adam losing his Apple might have something to do with their survival.

River shivered and buried herself deeper within Riddick, hiding her face in his chest and sighing contentedly.

The murderer tried not to imagine her sighing under him. It wasn’t the moment to have inappropriate thoughts.

“The light, it hurts them!” Fry announced as she hurried over, proud of the discovery of something Kaylee had confided earlier to Riddick that River had known all along.

“Congratulations.” Riddick announced sarcastically as he stood and pulled River with him. His eyes widened slightly when he felt the pistol hidden underneath her shirt, yet thanks to the goggles his expression was lost on the others.

The girl was a sneaky little tease.

Damned if that didn’t make him want her more.

“C’mon, we stay here and we’ll be dinner.” Johns announced as he glared at Riddick and River before going to burn another escape hatch.


They were in their sixth container. Cargo had been shoved against the door and walls. The survivors gathered around Fry’s hand-light, the only hand-light now that the one Jack had been holding had fallen and broken when they’d heard the sounds of the predator’s screams before realizing that Riddick and River were missing.

Kaylee sat next to a crying Jack, and a wounded River. She tore at her own shirt and bandaged her friend once more since they’d been stranded on this godforsaken planet. She was worried. River hadn’t ever just disconnected from her present, especially in the face of danger, like Riddick said she had when the predators all turned their attention on her.

This was the woman who’d killed Reavers and a predator with her own bare hands.

So why had she reacted so violently during this attack?

“One more cutting torch…one hand-light here…two more in the cabin…” She paused. “I think two more…”

“Spirits,” Paris piped up, looking at the pilot. Since they’d discovered that light hurt the bastards, they were looking for ways of keeping themselves completely in the path of light. “Anything above 45 proof burns well.”

“How many bottles?” Fry asked, interested.

“Not sure,” the little man mumbled. “Ten?”

Fry frowned. Obviously that wasn’t enough. They were currently in Paris’ container with all of his merchandise, and her eyes fell upon some very ugly umbrellas. “What about them? Would they burn?” Seeing the look on his face she added: “If you got a receipt?”

That seemed to calm him. “Possibly.”

“Awright,” Fry placed her hands on her hips and turned to look at those huddled around her. “So maybe we’ll have enough light.”

“Enough for what?” Johns asked, suspicion deep in his voice.

Fry turned and glared at him as if telling him to read her mind.

River, who could read her mind, spoke up for the first time since they’d entered the sixth container, her voice a little shaky for Kaylee’s likes. “She wishes to journey out into the night.”

Johns turned to River, eyes wide, before swinging back to a defiant looking Fry. “Oh lady. If you’re in your right mind, I pray you go insane!”

The pilot ignored him, turning her attention on the others. “We can stick to the plan.” She insisted. “If we get four cells back to the skiff, we’re off this rock.”

“I hate to ruin a beautiful theory with an ugly fact,” but considering that Paris was always the voice of doom Kaylee really didn’t believe him. “But that sand-cat is solar, it won’t run at night.”

“We’ll carry the cells…drag them…whatever it takes.” Yet there was a tremor in the captain’s voice.

Kaylee’s eyes widened. Mal had had some woozy ideas during his time as captain of Serenity, but Fry had just completely beaten him in the ‘Bad Ideas’ department!

Go out into the darkness?

At least here in the ship they had some relative safety.

But out in the infinite darkness?

They’d be dog meat!

All around her the faces of the survivors betrayed their troubled thoughts.

And was it Kaylee’s idea, or was the light dimming?

“You mean…tonight?” Jack asked, wiping at a tear. “With all of those things still out there?”

Fry nodded silently.

“Oh. Sure. Why not? Sounds like a hoot!” Paris sounded like he was about to have a complete mental break-down.

“Back it up.” Johns interrupted. “I know this darkness is supposed to last a while if the model is correct---but do we really want to go out there? At least here we have some chance at safety!” His gaze rested on all those in the room before landing on Jack and River. “Look at what happened to River! And—and—think of the kid! He’ll be terrified out there!”

“Oh don’t use him like that!” Fry exploded, turning on her once-ally.

“Use him for what?” Johns growled.

“As a smokescreen for your own fears!” She snapped, looking like all she wanted to do was kick the blonde out to the creatures outside.

Kaylee turned to look at Riddick and noted that he looked damned pleased with the way things were going between them, and couldn’t help but wonder if he had something to do with the falling out of the power-duo.

“Hey!” He narrowed his eyes, taking a menacing step towards the captain. “Why don’t you shut the fuck up for a moment and lemme come up with a plan that doesn’t involve MASS SUICIDE!”

Fry’s eyes were dark and emotionless. “Yeah, like I’d let a hype come up with plans that could concern the lives of others.”

There was a gasp as everyone turned to look at Johns in horror.

He was a hype? A drug addict?

Realizing that he’d already lost a big chunk of everyone’s respect; Johns pulled out his shotgun and pointed it at her. After he’d lost the pistol in the darkness he’d left his shotgun at his side and hadn’t touched it until this moment.

In a movement that surprised everyone, Riddick moved in between Fry and the nose of the shotgun, which bumped the underside of his chin.

“Think of that reward, Johns.” He reasoned in a ‘you-know-you-can’t-kill-me’ voice.

“Yes, well, Riddick, you might not be the only reward I could collect.” Johns spat out.

Kaylee’s heart stopped when Johns’ eyes quickly looked in River’s direction before resting firmly on Riddick once more.

He knew.

The mercenary knew who River was!

This wasn’t good!

Wasn’t good at all!

What to do? WHAT TO DO?

“With that in mind,” Johns continued. “I’m willing to take a cut in your reward.”

Riddick’s face was chiseled ice. “How ‘bout a cut in your gut?”

Johns and those witnessing this confrontation looked down to reveal the shiv Riddick held, poised and ready for evisceration.

“I won’t miss this time.” Riddick promised in a dangerous voice.

Johns’ eyes narrowed and a muscle in his cheek jerked as he looked back up at the murderer. “Oh, Trash Baby, you’re gonna regret this.”

“Please,” Iman, reminding Kaylee once more of Sheppard Book, stepped in, trying to make peace. “This solves nothing. Please…”

There was a moment of tense silence as both rivals stared each other down, yet not surprisingly Johns was the one to step back and away from the fight, despite the fact that he had an impressive shotgun and Riddick only had a bone-shiv.

To Kaylee, that spoke volumes about Johns.

Fry smiled at Riddick’s back and placed a hand on his shoulder as a thank you before turning to Jack.

Kaylee heard River growl softly besides her when Fry didn’t remove her hand from Riddick’s shoulder.

“They’re afraid of our light.” Fry told the little boy, not knowing that the girl who, if properly trained, could kill her with only her brain, was glaring daggers at her. “That means we don’t have to be so afraid of them.”

“And you’re certain that you can find the way back?” Iman asked, looking down at his two charges with fatherly worry. “Even in the dark?”

“No, I can’t lead us back to the skiff.” Fry shook her head before giving Riddick’s shoulder a little squeeze. “But he can.”



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