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Disclaimer: See chapter 1

Notes On Aeryn Sun: Please excuse my tiny reference to Aeryn Sun; it seemed to write itself. The quote that Imam uses is from Auguries Of Innocence by Robert Blake, as is the title for the chapter.

Monsters In The Night



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Ch 4 - Born To Endless Night

As the Sandcat raced the darkening sky to the crash ship, all eyes except Shazza’s were glued to the spectacle of the huge ringed planet rising over their right shoulder. It was going to be a close run, but the dark-haired woman had been handling equipment like the ‘cat since she was a child. Zeke’s death had turned the bouncing trip over uncertain ground into a personal vendetta she didn’t plan to lose.

It took all her skill to maneuver through the canyon of bones and not lose speed, but she did it. The sand hills that followed were equally treacherous, but the ‘cat responded like the animal it was named after, and always landed on its feet. Her hands fought the wheel over each bump and rut-hole, until they skidded to a halt in the shadow of the dead ship. In another life, in Uncharted Territories she would be called a rogue Peacekeeper, who loved and was loved by a lesser being, but here, she was the Settler Woman, and bloody proud of it!

Jack leapt out of the vehicle and stood in awe of the spectacular show nature was putting on. Her brain told her it spelled disaster for them, but another part of her, that she had always refused to listen to, kept her rooted to the ground staring off to the horizon. She was a child who had seen little beauty and almost no kindness in her life, to be met by the stunning play of size, color and movement, left her speechless. It touched her and changed forever her yardstick of possibilities.

She was vaguely aware of the others’ frantic movements toward the H-G, and Paris shouting something, as he ran to the pod in the distance, but the teenager was still trying to process all she was seeing. It wasn’t until Shazza turned the ‘cat around and pulled it close to her, that the spell was broken. Danger, a little voice shouted in her brain. That was something she was well acquainted with, danger and fear. She mentally kicked herself for standing there like a tourist and not helping with the job that needed to be done. Since they had awakened from cold sleep the adults in the group had treated her as a person, instead of the indentured foster child she was. It was the first time in her life that grown-ups had shown her any consideration, and she didn’t want to let them down by acting like a scared kid.

In an attempt to do something to help, and to take her mind off the coming darkness, Jack jumped into the rear of the Sandcat. She pulled a rag from her pocket and wiped the dust off the cover on the solar battery, winning a reassuring nod from the woman in the driver’s seat. It surprised the young girl how much the small gesture form Shazza calmed her fears and helped steady her nerves.

All the while Riddick was pulling cells from the ship; he couldn’t get his mind off the black box in his pocket. Fuck we cut it too close! Gotta load the power. Gotta put the box back in place! In his hurry he hefts two 35-kilo cells, one on each shoulder, and hauled them out to the waiting ‘cat. But time had run out! Before he could head to the bridge and do what needed to be done, the dense rings that surrounded the huge planet slid past the sun, signaling the beginning of the eclipse.

The results caught them all by surprise, but it shouldn’t have. One minute there was the whir of the solar battery, the pounding of running feet, and of heavy cells being dropped in the load bed, the next all was quiet, as nine people stared at the sudden fall of twilight. Shazza softly cursed as she tried to make the ‘cat’s engine jump to life without fuel. A fruitless task, but one she couldn’t stop herself from trying anyway.

Then they heard it, the voices of the damned as they began to sing. Fry paled as she recognized the clicks and pops that accompanied the almost mechanical hum. She had heard the sound twice before, once in the Coring Room, and once as it echoed back at her from the depth of the hole where she had gone in search of Zeke’s body. Even though she had seen the destruction the creatures could reap, she was pinned in place by the delicate beauty of hundreds of them as they arched skyward. She thought she heard Richard whisper something, but her senses were too overloaded by the sights and sounds in front of her to hear what even he was saying.

It was Imam’s voice that finally caught her attention. “’Every night and every morn, some to misery are born. Every morn and every night, some are born to sweet delight. Some are born to sweet delight; some are born to endless night. We are led to believe a lie, when we see not thro’ the eye, which was born in a night, to perish in a night, when the soul slept in beams of light.’

At first she thought the Holyman was intoning a prayer, but the words played along her brain, until their meaning sunk in, and she began to tremble. She bit her lip to keep from calling out the man’s name that meant safety. He had made it clear he wanted no part of her, and she refused to make a fool of herself again.

She didn’t remember Paris’s frantic call, or running toward him. She had felt a surge of adrenaline, her legs pumped and her heart raced. Then she was standing with most of the others in the protection of the pod, while Richard and Shazza were trapped on the ground half way between them and the ship. Her mouth went dry as her lips moved in silence, “please Richard don’t move, stay put, stay, both of you.”

Time alternately crawled and flew as she watched the scene that was played out on the desert floor. Then the waiting was over! Hundreds of the bird-like aliens swooped and dove around the two left in the open. In her fear Shazza had tried to out run them, and in a blinding second she was torn apart, meters from safety. The moment played over and over in Carolyn’s mind. She saw clearly what it must have been like for Zeke, and what was in store for all of them, if something wasn’t done quickly.

The others moved inside the pod, but her legs would hardly hold her. It was too easy to picture Richard being carried off in bloody pieces as Shazza had been. Leaning against the door to catch her breath, she hoped she looked casual instead of scared. Her eyes glued to Riddick’s slow walk toward her. Then there was only him and the quiet all around them.

He had seen fear before; it was a byproduct of his trade. He thought he recognized it in all its forms, but the look on Carolyn’s face was something new. He slid his goggles off to see better in the darkening shadows, but it didn’t help. She was scared, almost too scared to stand, but it wasn’t of him or the aliens. It was a kind he had never encountered before. He wanted badly to reach out for her, and wipe the panicked look from her face, but he stopped himself. When the noises started again, he took a deep breath as they both turned to stare out into the darkness. It had been a close call. If they hadn’t been interrupted, he knew she would be in his arms, and he had worked too hard in the skiff to let that happen again.

“Richard, what is it?” Carolyn watched blindly as the sounds grew to crescendo proportions “What is it now?”

He was lost in the site of the creatures breaking through the spires of mud and rock that had protected them from the light. Thousands of them began to take to the air, escaping their underground prisons. Riddick’s stomach knotted when he realized that he had sent Carolyn down in one of those things, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the beauty of their dance as they gloried in the night. It was easier to watch the monsters from hell weave complicated patterns in the sky, than to face what was really bothering him and deal with the woman whose scent was making him hard even as he stood there watching death dancing high above them.

“Like I said, it ain’t me you gotta worry about.” He had his bad boy attitude tight in place, so he turned back to the woman close beside him. It surprised him to find her looking with fascination into the distance that was too dark for her to see. The haunting fear of a minute ago replaced with determination.

“I never did worry about you, until five minutes ago.” She whispered. The sound of his voice had shifted her attention back to him. Her hand moved of its own accord and touched his lips, causing the tough expression on her fact to crack, and become open and soft, filled with remnants of the fear he had seen before.

“Carolyn,” he rasped out her name as he reached for fingers that he wanted to kiss, but refused too. As the last of the light faded, it hit him like a blow to the back of the head; the fear on her face had been FOR him! She had stood there, and had worried about him when he was trapped out on the sands. It humbled him to the morrow of his bones, and he was glad for the total darkness as the last of the sun slipped behind the ringed planet. Only he could see in the blackness that followed, so if his face wasn’t as schooled, as he would have liked, it didn’t matter this once.

She was badly shaken; he had seen it in the last of the light. It was a mirror of what he was feeling, and he wasn’t sure how to deal with that. Death had whizzed past him so close that he could smell it and for the first time in his life, it mattered. Because it did, they needed to get in-doors. He didn’t want to break off contact with her so he reached for her cheek and lightly caressed it as his arm moved around her. For a moment he felt her lean against him before she took a deep breath and turned in his arm. Together they took the first step toward the pod. His hand rested on the small of her back; her shoulder tucked gently under his. As they moved to safety, he knew that something had changed for Richard B. Riddick, and that frightened him more than anything else on this planet.

“Remember the bone yard? These just may be the fuckers that killed every living thing on this planet.” Johns held up a light as the group gathered together, a few feet from the entrance to the pod, the door locked tight. Then the noises started. They sounded close, almost inside the cargo carrier, as well as all around the outer walls.

Riddick scanned the interior, but even his shine-enhanced vision couldn’t pick out any movement in their space. As he moved away from the light to get a better look, he felt Carolyn close behind him and held out his left arm to keep her from moving ahead. He didn’t question why he needed to protect her. It was a delicate balance between caring too much and keeping her at a distance. He was a man who didn’t know shit about being delicate, and even less about caring!

Her slim hand gripped his arm and for the first time he had a taste of what it was like to face danger with someone standing beside him. He looked down at her face close to his shoulder, and could see she was afraid, but would have pushed ahead, if he had let her. How could fear of the aliens make her stronger, while fear for him had made her almost helpless? It didn’t make any sense. Fear was fear, wasn’t it?

Carolyn felt Richard cover her hand with his as they moved. She trusted him to be their eyes, but she wouldn’t let him search alone. When she bumped against his back, and his grip tightened on her hand to keep her close at his side, she knew something was very wrong.

Standing complete still, with the light from the group behind them Riddick could feel the danger ahead. “Come on Johns, you got the big gauge, why don’t you led?” He pushed at the man who was standing safely behind all the others, while holding the large automatic shotgun.

“I’d rather piss glass,” Johns called out as the group separated and the clicks and scratches intensified, a few feet in front of Riddick and Fry. Here’s my chance, he grinned as he raised the weapon. Take them both out in one shot! Get the bitch and the convict! Yeah! His morphine deprived mind roared in tune with the shotgun blasts.

Riddick quickly tackled Carolyn and hit the deck. He tried to take the impact of the fall with his body before he rolled her beneath him. The bounce and ping of pellets whizzed over his head, and the screech of one of the creatures being hit caught them all by surprise.

“Sorry about that boy, didn’t mean to cut it so close.” Johns’s voice echoed through the pod in the silence that followed. Damn I missed! Need a spike, before that crazed killer comes after me! I won’t miss then just need that spike.

“Damn idiot!” Riddick shouted as he ran his hands over the woman beneath him to be sure she was unharmed.

“Don’t.” Carolyn whispered as she gripped his shirtfront. She had felt his shift in weight and knew he was going after Johns. “Don’t give him the excuse.”

He nodded, because he knew she was right, but hated it. “You okay?” He rolled off of her and pulled her to her feet.

“Yeah, thanks.” She smiled at him then threw back her head and marched the short distance to Johns. “You fucker! What kind of idiot stunt were you trying to pull?” Her eyes shooting fire as she gave the redhead a thump on the shoulder. “Now give me that gun before you hurt someone with it.”

“No way Fry!” He ground his teeth and stared her down. In the light from the flashlight he could see the bruise he had put on her jaw and his hand itched to repeat the performance. “This is my shotgun. If you want it, it will be over my dead body.”

“That just might be able to be arranged.” She stood on her toes so she was inches away from his face. His eyes were bloodshot and she could see a twitch at the corner of his mouth. He was out of control and it worried and disgusted her.

“Ha,” he laughed. “We both know you got it in ya, but can you do it with an audience?” He sneered, as she grew pale. Oh Carolyn, I know just which buttons to push with you. You’re mine now bitch.

“People, we really should be moving along,” Paris watched nervously as Riddick moved further into the pod, followed by Hassan. Imam was frantically trying to cut through the wall, into the next container while he kept a close watch on Jack and Rashad, but he stopped a moment and nodded approval to Paris.

“I think we must assume that there are move of those things in here.” The Holyman returned his attention to his work. The more afraid he was the more he had been praying, but somehow he found that keeping his hands busy kept his fear at bay better than all the prayer in the world. Ahh so that is how You answer my prayer, he smiled to himself and concentrated on the torch with more diligence. God was telling him to work, so work he would.

“Must be a hull breach,” Fry moved behind him and held a light to make his job easier. She smiled at Rashad and patted Jack’s shoulder. “How you doin, Jack?” The young boy was broken up over Shazza’s death. It seemed out character, but who was she to judge anyone’s character.

Suddenly the atmosphere in the pod seemed to change. A strange fear gripped Carolyn and she looked around and did a quick head count. Riddick and Hassan were missing! “Richard,” she called out, not realizing she had used his first name.

“Don’t stop burning,” his deep voice answered. Its slow quiet cadence made her shudder.

Riddick’s soft words were the signal for all hell to brake lose. A high-pitched scream, and running feet, punctuated by the odd alien clicks and pops, filled the air. Johns moved in the direction of the noise, his light shining brightly in front of him and his shotgun raised. For one moment he had the satisfaction of hearing Riddick gasp in pain as the bright light hit his uncovered shined eyes. So sorry about that boy, the bounty hunter mused as he continued down the aisle and began shooting anything that moved.

Ten minutes later they were barricaded into the last compartment of the pod. Riddick watched as Fry did her usual head count, a look of sorrow crossed her face at Hassan’s lose, but he could tell she was relieved that only one had died. He was proud of her as she went into action and began inventorying their light sources. He knew as she did, that their only hope of survival was to get back to the skiff.

“The plan, we stick to the plan!” Fry tried to reassure the others.

“Those things are phobic about light, I say we sit here and wait until the sun comes back up.” Johns was damned if he was going to let some bitch that scared too easily gamble with his life.

“I had the impression from the model, the two planets were moving as one and there would be lasting darkness.” Imam’s words painted a picture of calamity on an Old Testament scale.

“These suns have got to come up sometime. We just sit tight and let the sun come up.” Johns needed a spike and his fingers itched to reach for the cartridge container in his pack, but he couldn’t until he had a moment alone. That wasn’t going to happen as long as Fry was pushing them to move on.

“I’m sure somebody else said that, locked in that Coring Room.” Her challenge was written all over her face. From the distance Riddick wanted to warn her that Johns was too close to the edge to be pushed, instead, he stepped closer to the merc incase he needed to intervene.

“We need to think about everybody now, especially the kid, how scared’s this boy going to be out there in the dark!” That sounded good to him. Make her look like the selfish bitch she was.

“Don’t use him like that!”

“Like what?” Johns played dumb.

“As a smoke screen. You deal with your own fears!” Fry realized there was no way around it. It wasn’t going to be pretty. Better now, then out there, halfway to skiff. Nip this coward in the bud right here and now!

Riddick stood and watched as Fry fought Johns for control of the group. It had the potential to turn real nasty, so he carefully gripped the handle of his shiv, incase words weren’t enough of a weapon. Moments later he saw the slight movement of the shotgun, but only because he was standing almost on top of the merc. What surprised him the most was that he had taken an involuntary step forward, and to the left. He had blocked the gun with his body. For a moment his head swam as he realized what he had done. Then he felt the cold muzzle of a side-by-side digging into his neck.

A smirk crossed Johns’s face at the joy he would get from blowing Riddick’s head off. Why didn’t the man look afraid? He had him? Johns watched as Riddick pushed his goggles up to his forehead and smiled. It was then that he felt the slight tapping on his crotch. It made his blood run cold as he lowered his eyes and saw Riddick’s shiv point moving against his balls.

“This solves nothing!” Imam shouted at the two men, then turned to Fry. “Are you sure you can get us there, even in the dark?”

“No, I can’t, but he can.” She looked to Riddick. Their eyes met for a moment. It frightened him when he thought of the trust she was putting in him, but he nodded slowly as if seeing her for the first time.

Johns stood back and watched the interchange between the man and the woman. What was going on here? What had he missed? Then he remembered earlier she had called the bastard Richard? Though his blood cried out for a spike, he hadn’t been born yesterday. The pieces began to float in slow motion through his brain. Riddick had been missing while she did that long systems check. She had mumbled something about having some problems with it, but had never explained what took her so long. When she had attacked him in the storage room and pinned him with her knee, he had thought the scent of sex on her had been his own wishful thinking. Why you disgusting bitch, he grinned. If she was desperate enough for a fuck that she’d screw that scumbag convict, it should be easy for him to get a piece of ass before he killed her. Maybe even while he killed her, that’d be a real ball banger!

And Riddick, how could he use this to twist the knife in him before he killed him? Johns grinned at the larger man’s back, as he thought of the implications of what he had just seen. The convict had been willing to take the hit for his bitch. Not once, but twice he had stood between the woman and a shotgun. Was the icy killer using her or had she been hot enough to break through the man’s barriers? Who’ee Carolyn I’d hate to be in your shoes when the shit hits the fan! I got you both now.

The trip through the night to the Hunter-Gratznia went better than any of them could have imagined. It added weight to Fry’s claim that they could make it back to the skiff. For the first time since Shazza died, Jack felt renewed hope. She knew she had let her tough guy attitude slip, but so far they all still believed she was a boy. She smiled to herself at her stroke of genius: imitating Riddick. At the time she had shaved her hair and donned the look-alike goggles, she had told herself it fit with her image of a rebellious teen-age boy. Now she realized it had been more than that. The Convict was the strongest personality she had ever met. On the run as she was, she needed all the illusions of strength she could muster. Since she knew the adults better, she realized that she was safe with them even as a girl, but a lie once started took on a life of its own and there was no stopping it.

While most of the group removed the internal lighting from the ship, Riddick went to the bridge. He was tempted to turn off the emergency beacon, to lessen the chance that the ship would be found by anyone, but as long as it broadcast, it would give the raiders something to concentrate on while they made their get-away in the skiff.

He worked quickly trying to repair the damage that had been done when he removed the black box from its complicated circuitry. He knew he could put it back, but if there were an inspection of the console anyone with a bit of knowledge would be able to tell that the box had been removed. He rocked back on his heels to weigh the possibilities. Which would be the less damaging to Carolyn? Leave a box that had been tampered with, a sure signal to the Company that it had been found; or remove it? The second option had the advantage of destroying any evidence of Fry’s actions during the crash. But a missing box was something that the Company would never allow. He had a real fear that either way a Company spook would be sent hunting her.

“Boy?” Johns broke into Riddick’s concentration. “What you doin up here?”

Riddick acted quickly. He turned and blocked the other man’s view of the console, as he reached in and removed the black box. “Just looking for some more light sources.”

“Ya find any?” Johns didn’t believe him for a moment, but couldn’t figure out why else he would be on the bridge.

“Nothing useful.”

“Well git, then. I’m sure there is something you can do for Carolyn.” The merc had come to the bridge for the privacy he needed for a spike or two. “She sure is something else isn’t she?” Now he had the convict’s attention, and he planned on using it to his advantage. “Likes her sex a bit on the rough side, not something you’d expect for a little thing like her.” He winked in a way that spoke of things that men talked about only between themselves. “But then again a woman would do almost anything to keep from getting her neck sliced with a shiv.” He grinned and rubbed the side of his jaw; he knew Fry had a bruise to match his. Johns’s eyes glowed as if to say, makes you wonder what she was doing with me in the storeroom, and how she really got that black and blue mark.

His stab in the dark had hit home. Well what do you know, she’s a real whore, not only lets him put his convict hands on her, but likes it rough. It had been an easy guess, a man like Riddick wouldn’t know anything but rough, in that the two men had the same tastes. The added pleasure of seeing Riddick’s face turned to stone, made Johns feel powerful for the first time since he lost the argument with Fry.

Johns injected a second spike into his eye and leaned back against the wall of the bridge. He knew the others were waiting for him, but he didn’t care. If they were going on this foolish trip he needed all the courage he could get. He looked up and saw Fry at the top of the steps staring at him. His mind did a spin as he hoped it was eating Riddick up to know she was up here with him. He would do his best to drag it out.

“You give him the cells and a ship and he’ll leave all of you.” Johns watched her as he spoke quietly, trying to reason with her.

“I don’t get it Johns, what is so God-damned valuable in your life that you’re worried about losing, ‘sides your next spike?” Her disgust was written all over her face as she watched him slowly stand and move toward her, his shotgun raised.

“You’d be surprised, Carolyn.” He whispered as he pushed the double-barrels against her navel. It was giving him a hard on to watch the cold metal against her bare skin. This time there would be no fistfight.

“Get that thing away from me!” She glared at him.

“What you goin’ to do, kill me? You already threatened that once, and so far I’m still breathin’.” He shoved the gun tighter against her, forcing her to step back. “You know what I think? I think you’re nothin’ but a chicken shit whore. You think you bought your way to safety with that body of yours. It’s a damn fine body, Carolyn, but when Riddick is through with it, you’ll be just as dead and he’ll have the skiff.” He pulled his gun aside and grabbed his pack, as she stood motionless, the blood rushing out of her face. “Now I think the group is waiting for us.” Her nodded toward the stairs for her to lead the way, it took all his effort not to laugh as he followed her down and found Riddick watching them as they descended.

When they headed out into the night filled with monsters, it wasn’t as they had planned it. Johns had skillfully added a few extra ones to their load. In his drug hazed condition it increased his feeling of power to see the doubts he had placed. He only had to wait for the right moment and he would send Fry and Riddick crashing.

Riddick led the way and he was glad the others didn’t see what he did. It was going to take all his ingenuity to get them through the maze of aliens. Maybe it would keep his mind off the dead feeling inside of him. He called himself every kind of fool for listening to Johns’s words, but they had just enough of a ring of truth to make him doubt. The further away from the H-G they got, the more cracks formed in the fragile link he had forged with Carolyn. He had to stop thinking about her like that. She was Fry not Carolyn! If she had used him, she would pay.

Chapter 5 - The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death



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September 2012


The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears

The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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