The Slow Burn, Chapter 11

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 11 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 11 (formerly chapter 10) of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Riddick decides to keep a closer eye on Fiona, saving her from an unspeakable fate in the process.

Riddick: What Normal People Have

Sometimes, being right sucked all the balls in the galaxy, Riddick had thought as he gazed down the coring room shaft.

None of the settlers had made it offworld, based on the quick count of skulls he had managed to do of the visible part of the cavern under the coring room. He’d been contemplating possibly going down into its depths to do an even better count—he wasn’t entirely sure where that reckless impulse had even come from—when Shazza had apologized to him.

He was still a little shocked that she’d given him her breather. That was something that he hadn’t expected. Her gruff follow-up, calling him an asshole and then saying she was sorry—for, he assumed, kicking him in the head rather than calling him an asshole—told him everything he needed to know about how sincere she was. This was real. She had forgiven him and was trying to make amends. His hopes hadn’t extended past her getting her head back on straight, and this was more than he’d ever anticipated.

People are so surprising, he thought.

Then Fry had gone off on a tear about how the most recent coring sample was twenty-two years old, dragging them all—most of them, anyway—to a room she’d found with an orrery inside. When she wound the gears back to the date on the sample, nobody had been too surprised to find that the planets around theirs had eclipsed all three suns the next day. The question of when the next eclipse would occur proved more complicated. The orrery dated it to twenty-six weeks after the Hunter-Gratzner had left Trafalgar Station. Fry told them that, when she and Owens had awakened from cryo, he’d mentioned that his chrono said twenty-two weeks had passed… but they were also massively off-course and none of the electronics were functioning entirely right, so his chrono could have been off.

“So anywhere from tomorrow to a month from now,” Johns had inferred with suspicious calm. Riddick wondered when he had sneaked off to shoot up.

“Then it will be in our best interests to repair and launch the skiff as soon as we can,” the Imam replied, leaning over to study the orrery. He advanced it several more clicks until light returned to the small sphere that represented their crash planet. “It appears that once darkness falls, it will not relent for almost another month.”

Riddick was privately sure that he could survive to see the suns again, but he doubted there’d be anyone else left to watch their return by then.

Well, maybe Fiona. He suspected he’d break his own rules about not sticking his neck out for others… again… if it came down to her. And frankly, that worried him even more than the prospect of an eclipse.

One of the Imam’s remaining charges hurried into the room and said something. While Riddick had picked up a smattering of Arabic during one of his early tours before everything went to shit, the boy’s words were too fast and agitated for him to follow.

“He says that Fiona and Jack are planning to find somewhere to sleep,” the Imam helpfully explained.

And that was how he ended up spending the next hour clearing residences beside Johns and Shazza.

Some of them were in shambles. Doors had been broken down, furniture had been scattered, blood had been splashed on walls, and gnawed skeletal remains were strewn across floors. A few turned out to have cellars, and nobody—not even him—felt like venturing into them to see if they were compromised. A handful had remained intact but had been colonized by strange fungal growths, which sat in full sunlight and released spores into the air whenever shadows fell over them. All of those residences were declared uninhabitable. In the end, only eight residential units were left to be marked as safe.

With that solved, there had promptly been a new argument over sleeping arrangements, with several would-be parents telling Jack that he couldn’t room with a girl.

Oh, for fuck’s sake, Riddick thought. Now that the bickering had begun, he’d had all the human contact he could stand for a while, and he decided to do a quick fade. Fiona, at Shazza’s urging, went off to find somewhere to sleep, and he kept a careful eye on her as she went. Her steps were slow and a little unsteady, the gait of someone asleep on her feet.

He wasn’t the only one watching her go, he realized. Johns was staring after her.

No, that ain’t good. Johns might be thinking of engaging in a little retribution for the way she’d defied him back at the crash ship. It wouldn’t be the first time the merc had assaulted a woman and then used his counterfeit badge to make her stay quiet. Riddick had heard the stories, though. They still spread even if officially they’d never happened. That’s not happening at all this time.

So much for alone time.

Riddick ambled after Fiona, staying out of everyone’s sight and marking which house she picked—aware that Johns was doing so too—and waiting until Shazza pulled Johns into another conversation before slipping inside the house himself, unseen by anyone except possibly Jack. If the boy had seen him, though, he didn’t raise a fuss. Riddick suddenly found himself hoping that the kid didn’t have a crush on Fiona. If he did, and things developed the way it seemed likely they would, Jack might end up regretting his haircut and hero-worship.

Yeah, he admitted to himself, it was very likely that he’d stick his neck out to make sure that kid saw the suns return, too. Fuck, I’m getting soft. These were handles big enough for any merc to grab onto.

Riddick could hear Fiona’s quiet breathing behind one of the doors, already in the slow, deep rhythm of sleep. He opened the door as gently as he could.

She was curled up on her side in a bed that, by its size, had definitely been intended for a married couple. Either she had changed the sheets or they had somehow been protected against the dust for the last twenty-two years. She had also changed her clothes, the shorts and halter top she had been wearing for …how long, exactly?… discarded in a heap by her backpack. Along with her underwear. All she wore was a short slip as a nightgown, which had already twisted up enough to make it clear that she wore nothing else beneath it. A jolt of intense arousal passed through him and his pants were suddenly far too tight.

The urge to get into bed with her, hold her while she slept, was too great to resist. He had told himself that he was just coming in to stand guard, to protect her from Johns, but now… now he just hoped things wouldn’t spiral out of control in another way.

Not wanting to dirty the sheets, he stripped out of his own clothes and then realized his new conundrum: he didn’t have any underwear to discard, or replace.

Yeah, no, I’m pretty sure she wants me too, but I doubt she’d take kindly to waking up to me naked in bed with her without an invite. Never mind that part of him was resolutely saluting her…

Fortunately, the third drawer he opened in the closet contained pairs of boxer shorts sized for a man a little heavier than him. The elastic had decayed on most of them, but one pair had drawstrings and was still in good enough shape to use. He changed into them and took several deep, calming breaths, imagining the least arousing things he could think of until his erection subsided.

Climbing into bed with Fiona, he gathered her into his arms, marveling when the rhythm of her breathing didn’t change at all. She’s way under, he told himself.

“What about this one?” Fry asked outside.

“It’s a one-bedder,” Shazza replied. “If Jack here is too shy to share a bedroom or loo with anybody, we need to get this lot a multi-bedder. There’s one down that way…”

Several pairs of feet shuffled through the dust and sand outside of the bedroom window, moving away. Riddick concentrated, picking up snatches of distant conversation as Paris decided to join the Imam’s crew and then Fry and Shazza apparently chose the house next to theirs.

Only one left unaccounted for…

The outer door to the house squeaked a little as it opened.

I knew it. Motherfucker’s more predictable than Murphy’s Law.

Riddick waited until the stealthy footfalls were almost at the bedroom door before speaking. “Occupied,” he rumbled, hoping he wouldn’t wake Fiona.

A whispered curse. And then footsteps, no longer bothering to be stealthy, moving away from the bedroom door. The outer door slammed.

In his arms, Fiona turned and rested her head on his chest, hitching one of her bare legs over his. He could feel soft curls pressing against his thigh. His body’s response was electric, but he made himself stay still. There would be time. Right now, what she needed was to sleep deeply and safely, guarded from all harm. There was something strangely wonderful, he thought, about the idea of just falling asleep with her in his arms like this. It was a type of interaction that he’d thought was long gone, far out of reach, something he hadn’t dared to even hope for since… since everything. He’d told himself it was something only available to other people, “normal people,” people unlike him, who weren’t being hunted and weren’t on their own dark hunt.

He waited a while longer, feigning a light snore, just in case Johns was planning on coming back. But no. Johns wouldn’t risk witnesses, not even ones he’d already done his best to discredit. More to the point, Johns wouldn’t risk a rematch with him if he wasn’t massively handicapped in some way, and for damn good reason. The threat had abated for now. He could rest. He could let himself rest… with her.

Finally Riddick fell asleep as well, lying on his back with Fiona curled against his chest.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 10

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 10 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 10 (formerly chapter 9) of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Fiona is a sleep-deprived observer to the chaos surrounding Ali’s death and the discovery that everyone may be living on borrowed time.

Fiona: Private Nightfall

The plan had been to end a very long day with some real, clear, pure water and a light supper, and then everyone would bed down in the empty housing units for their first good, real sleep since the crash. But this desolate world was the death of all plans, Fiona mused.

Riddick and Shazza sparring over what had happened to the colonists hadn’t managed to dampen the festive mood much, and it appeared that he had something important to tell everyone about their fates, when the Imam had burst into the room in a panic. He had barely asked them if they had seen Ali when the boy’s screams sent them all running for a building that Riddick called “the coring room.”

The next few hours were an increasingly surreal blur. She had found herself helping Abu — which the tearful Imam had confided was his personal name — to wash and wrap his littlest charge’s maimed and mangled body for burial. Jack had helped as well, more than a little tearful herself.

“I didn’t know he’d gone in there,” Jack had whispered, voice cracking repeatedly on the words. “I was so busy trying to spy on Riddick…”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Abu told her gently, patting her shoulder. Fiona nodded and suppressed a yawn. That was getting harder and harder to do. “He liked to find his way into places like that. So many times, he would almost give me a heart attack with his antics…”

Now it was Jack and Fiona’s turn, yet again, to comfort the cleric as he struggled not to weep.

“I must be strong for a little while longer,” he said after a moment. “At least long enough to sing his prayers.”

Everyone had attended the ceremony, standing back from the Imam and Ali’s cousins as they performed their rituals. It was nothing like any of the funerals Fiona had attended at either her mother’s or father’s churches, she thought, but it still felt holy to her. She stayed quiet and tried not to sway on her feet. Just how long had she been awake now?

Soon after, Fry, Johns, Shazza, and Riddick went back into the coring room, Jack stealing after them a moment later. Fiona sat down and tried to count up just how long she had been awake. How many times had the binary suns risen and set and been replaced by the blue sun since the crash? And how long was it between those exchanges? The math was slippery in her head, but she was pretty sure that it had to have been at least thirty-six hours, most of which had been spent dealing with one crisis or another.

If I don’t get sleep soon, she thought as she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, I’m going to be of no use whatsoever to my family when they get here… when they… they… stop messing around and join us…

“You are never going to believe what just happened,” Maggie gushed in her ear.

She opened her eyes. For a moment, she could swear she saw her twin standing in front of her, smiling… and then the last of her dozey dream shredded away and Jack was grinning at her. “…What…?”

Fuck. Of course Maggie wasn’t here. Fuck. Fuck.

Jack didn’t seem to notice any of her sudden distress… yet, anyway. “Shazza gave Riddick her breather! She said she was trying to apologize to him! Can you believe that? Maybe that means she’ll let me talk to him now— hey, are you okay?”

Fiona wiped at her cheeks and focused on smiling at Jack. “Yeah, I… just was having a bad dream, is all.” She could see Jack’s worry and found herself wondering how the girl was managing to power through the sleep deprivation with so much blithe energy. It was a relief to hear that Shazza had finally forgiven Riddick for surviving when her husband hadn’t. That was why she’d been mad, wasn’t it? And giving him her breather… “I honestly thought it’d take an act of God himself for that to happen.” But how could it be? With everything that had happened, God clearly had lost them and was having no better luck finding them than Johns had finding north on his spinning compass… spinning… north…

“Are you sure you’re okay, Fee?”

She nodded and climbed unsteadily to her feet, almost overbalancing as she retrieved her backpack. “Just sleepy, ’sall. C’mon, let’s find a place we can crash for a few hours, yeah?”

Of course, even that simple plan was soon derailed.

When the others realized that she and Jack were going in search of beds, Fry stopped them and made them wait while Riddick, Johns, and Shazza went from house to house and room to room, declaring which ones were safe and which ones might not be. By the time they were satisfied, things had gone from surreal to trippy and Fiona was in no condition to back Jack up in the next argument. They didn’t want her and Jack sharing a room; Jack, they felt, should room with the other boys.

“Are you kidding me?” Jack shouted. “I can’t understand a word they say!” Apparently she still wasn’t ready to break her masquerade and reveal that it would have been two girls sharing a bedroom.


She looked up at Shazza blearily. Even the threat of the small eldritch nightmares below the ground—

How could anything that small have carried Zeke off?

—wasn’t enough to keep her eyes focused anymore. Or open for much longer.

“You go ahead and find yourself a place to bunk down, yeah?” Shazza told her. “We’ll work this all out.”

She had the weird feeling that someone was staring at her as she began walking toward the stand-alone residences, but when she glanced back, the only one looking her way was Johns. He immediately looked away.

She stopped by three dwellings before she found one that had been marked as safe.


Fiona was very glad that she had never been plagued by allergies the way one of her friends was. Maeve would have been struggling to breathe in all of this dust. She initially thought that she would probably wake up completely filthy, albeit safe, if she slept in the cottage’s bedroom, until she realized that its owner had neatly and carefully made the room up sometime before the final, panicked evacuation, and the bed was covered by a large, thick, heavy bedspread that had withstood at least a decade of dust and neglect. Exhausted as she was, she took care in removing it; the sheets and pillows beneath were fairly clean. She was dirtier, dust and sweat stuck to her skin. With a relatively clean washcloth she found in a cupboard, she swabbed away the worst of the muck with the last ounces of one of Paris’s bottles of Zinfandel. Slipping out of her clothes and into the nightgown from her backpack, she slid under the clean sheets and felt almost transformed for a moment by their blissful, silky feel. No fancy hotel bed had ever felt so good.

In spite of the light pouring into the room — nobody wanted to be where it was dark now — she fell asleep almost immediately. She didn’t even wake up when warm, solid flesh pressed against her back and a pair of strong arms wrapped around her.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 9

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 9 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 9 (formerly chapter 8) of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Riddick explores the settlement, contemplates the situation and his companions, and makes a disturbing discovery.

Riddick: Considerations

The settlement, and the skiff, weren’t nearly as impressive as Riddick had expected from the way the search party had raved about it.

The place wasn’t terrible or anything, but he had been imagining a working town that had been abandoned when the resources it had been set up to exploit ran dry, like hundreds of ghost towns that dotted dozens of barely-habitable worlds. This one hadn’t even made it that far; everything he was seeing told him it had still been in the early phases of setting up.

When there are more work buildings than housing, Riddick reflected as he strolled through the place’s sorry excuse for a main street, you know things didn’t go well.

He wondered just how far along things had gotten before it all fell apart. The escape skiff suggested that they had fallen apart in some kind of spectacular fashion.

That skiff worried him more than he wanted to admit aloud. It had been sitting in this arid patch of dust for at least a decade, based on the weathering it had taken. Fry seemed to think it could get them offworld, up where they could be rescued, and he had publicly agreed with her, but his misgivings had been growing since then. Open to the elements the way it had been for an indeterminate amount of time, there was a good chance that some or all of the electronics had fried long ago. But it had turned on when she connected one of the Hunter-Gratzner’s fuel cells. Maybe her optimism wasn’t so misplaced.

Of course, in the process he’d revealed a little too much about his own knowledge of astrogation and ship repairs, and Johns had promptly assigned him tasks that would keep him as far away from the skiff as possible. Typical.

Those chores hadn’t taken long at all. With Fry and Shazza busy working on the skiff, the Imam and his boys getting the condenser working again, and Paris and Johns generally getting in everybody’s way, almost nobody was paying attention when he slipped away to do a little reconnoitering of his own.

His investigations quickly began to disturb him. Everywhere there were signs that people had not merely left in a hurry, but had been caught up in a full-blown panic. A broken pair of spectacles, a small water-flask, somebody’s chrono… things that shouldn’t have been lying among the dust. Not unless there was big trouble at the end.

Trouble, he suspected, from down below.

Well, it wasn’t such a surprise. He hadn’t actually seen Zeke get taken, but he knew it had happened fast. Looked like these settlers got a taste of the same thing, unfortunate bastards.

As he walked, his mind turned to his companions. If this settlement turned out to be no safer than the crash site, things could get hairy pretty damned quickly, and most of them were still trying to delude themselves as to what the real dangers were. Johns, of course, would do whatever he could to save his own ass, and Fry might do the same. He didn’t necessarily think so, though. She seemed to feel a lot of guilt over almost dumping the passenger cabin. Maybe now that everybody had become real people to her, she would feel obligated to protect them.

Too bad nobody’s ever “real people” to Johns, he reflected.

Shazza was unpredictable. She was still riding the edge of her grief and rage, and doing elaborate mental gymnastics to keep viewing him as somehow to blame. If she snapped, she might do the whole group a world of harm. Paris had already proven that he was worthless when he’d abandoned his post. And, while his apparent addictions were on a much lower level than Johns’, they made him equally unpredictable and untrustworthy. He would probably try to guard his precious bottles at exactly the wrong moment and get someone killed.

The holy man seemed okay, as much as any religious zealot could be, but those kids of his would probably get themselves into trouble. The youngest of the three had wandered off early into the condenser repairs, along with Jack.

Now Jack… Jack was interesting. Riddick had spotted the boy earlier, ducking through the town, with a shaved head and a pair of goggles that vaguely resembled his. In fact, he was pretty sure that Jack and that Ali kid were shadowing him at the moment. He glanced over his shoulder just in time to see two heads duck behind a rooftop. Kids… Jack would probably side with him if things got rough, though, for whatever that might be worth. He had the kid mostly pegged now: a runaway who had seen enough to want to ingratiate himself with the biggest and strongest before he could become their meat, and had chosen him as the one to follow.

Sorry to tell you, kid, but I’m not even close to the most dangerous thing on this rock. Then again, he did have a soft spot for kids, one that had put him in harm’s way on more than a few occasions. Jack might be on his side, but that could also make for a chink in his armor. He would need to be careful. That story had already ended badly more than once.

Finally, there was Fiona. He’d saved her for last because she was the most confusing of all of them. It would be easy to dismiss her behavior toward him as the result of grief, madness or numbness blocking her sense of who to avoid, but many of her small gestures and mannerisms had him suspecting that she might not have feared him under normal circumstances, either. The electricity building between them was something he hadn’t felt with anyone since he was a teenager, and he knew he was probably getting reckless as a result. Maybe both of them were falling into what his last shrink had called a folie à deux, and this madness would go nowhere good.

But there were all of the little things, the repeated, consistent acts of simple kindness to consider. The horse bit. Cleaning his cuts. Sharing her breather. Believing him immediately when he said there was something much more dangerous than him in this world’s rare shadows. Things that nobody else in the group had even thought about. She wasn’t the only one in the party who treated him like a person — Jack and the Imam were there as well, and Fry seemed to be on the cusp of doing so — but she was the only one to go further and show him trust.

But probably the biggest thing of all, the elephant clomping after him in the dust, was the very simple fact that he wanted her. It had been a very, very long time since he’d been with a woman, and even longer since he’d been with one who didn’t charge for her time. The sparks that kept flying between them were getting harder and harder to resist.

Still thinking about Fiona, Riddick moved over to a large structure and began examining it.

This is a coring room, he thought with dawning horror as the pieces fell together at last. The whole settlement had been a fledgling mining operation. Fuck, what did you sorry bastards unleash on yourselves?

The Slow Burn, Chapter 8

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 8 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 8 (formerly chapter 7) of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Fiona attempts to address a glaring inequity in how Riddick is being treated.
Note: When I first wrote this chapter, I had no idea that one of the hallmarks of a Mary Sue was appropriating actions and dialogue associated with canon characters, and that having Fiona give Riddick her breather was so egregious. While she still shares her breather with him in this version of the chapter, I have attempted to ameliorate it some by having her contemplate how monumental the same action on Shazza’s part would actually be (which then does happen later). Plus, a lot more happens than previously. Hopefully it flows better.

Fiona: Offerings

“So, click your fingers and he’s one of us, now?”

Fiona glanced over toward Shazza and Johns where they walked side-by-side. “One of us?” When you’re treating him like a pack mule?

After all of the fuss and drama, she and the others had finally learned just what Fry, Johns, and the Imam had found on their search for water: a settlement. A human settlement, to be exact, and apparently abandoned, but with supplies left behind. One of the Imam’s three charges, a boy only a year or two younger than her named Suleiman, had tried to tell her and Jack about the wonders they had found there, although his English was limited and he kept slipping back into Arabic whenever he got excited. But the place was apparently solar-powered, large enough to house all of the survivors, had a moisture condenser that he was confident he and his two cousins could get working again… and had a small escape craft.

In the wake of Zeke’s death, the decision to switch camps had been immediate and unanimous. Shazza had told her and Jack to take only what they could easily carry because it was a few hours’ walk. The heaviest necessities had been piled onto a makeshift sled. Riddick, now free of his chains, had been put in charge of dragging it—by those very same chains—while the others walked ahead. Somehow, so far, he had been able to keep up. More or less, anyway. He had started ahead of everyone, but was now bringing up the rear.

There was still anger and hostility in Shazza’s voice as she and Johns talked, as if she still blamed Riddick for Zeke’s death. Fiona sighed and glanced back at the man in question.

Riddick had fallen a little further behind the others since she had last looked back. Only Paris was still near him, laboring under his own weighty burdens. The ridiculous man would have found a way to drag his entire cargo hold with him if they’d allowed him to; as it was, he was almost as heavily-laden as Riddick himself. Most of his sacks appeared to contain large bottles of exotic alcohol. Fiona couldn’t imagine that the heat of the suns beating down on them was at all good for his supply. As she watched, one of the wine bottles fell out of a sack and rolled back, stopping at Riddick’s feet.

Fiona couldn’t actually hear what Paris and Riddick were saying, but the pantomime was enough to stop her in her tracks as she suppressed laughter. When Paris extended his hand for the bottle, Riddick gave him a wide, wolfish smile and pretended they were introducing themselves to each other, shaking his hand rather than putting the bottle into it. As the much smaller man hemmed and hawed, Riddick opened the bottle and drank down the entire contents in one long draught, not even stopping for a breath.

It was only then that she realized that, burdened as he was, Riddick didn’t appear to have any bottles of his own — and she, and Jack, and even the Muslim boys had a bottle apiece of something low-proof and potable — much less—

Bloody hell, they didn’t give him a breather.

Paris passed her, his steps shuffling on the sandy slope but quick with panic and his arms protectively spanning his sacks as he hurried forward. Clearly he didn’t want to lose any more of his loot to the man tasked with dragging most of it. As Riddick approached, his mouth quirking, she unslung her breather from her shoulders and held it out to him.

“Here,” she told him. “I think you need this more than I do.”

He stared at her for a moment, his pace lagging as she moved to walk beside him. She continued to hold the unit out. After a moment, he took it and placed it across his shoulders, over the sled’s chain.

“You sure about this, Fee? You ain’t letting yourself in for a picnic here.”


Her family had always called her that. Oddly enough, hearing him use it didn’t sting as much as she’d thought it might. There was pain, but it was still remote and muted, staying out of the way of the more immediate concerns around her. She nodded. “Maybe if it gets bad you can let me have a hit or something.”

Riddick nodded, a slight smile crossing his face. Then he lifted the breather tube up and took a long drag on it. “Hmm,” he said after a moment, quirking his lips at her.


He leaned over, dropping his voice as if to keep the others from hearing, even though everyone was out of range. “Now I know what your mouth tastes like.” His breath was warm on her cheek, but somehow it sent shivers through her.

Raised voices ahead caught her attention. She and Riddick were entering the canyon Suleiman had described and the others were now leaving them behind, hurrying toward its other end and the slope that would take them into the settlement. Johns glanced back at them, shook his head, and then nudged Jack, who turned and started trudging toward them.

“I think you might be in trouble,” Riddick chuckled.

Johns and Shazza had forbidden Jack from talking to Riddick, but that was hardly going to work with Fiona. She was no child, and had no intention of allowing them to treat her like one. Still, it was clear that Jack was being sent to fetch her away from the Big Bad Wolf, before…

Before what, exactly? Do they think he’s going to throw me down on the ground and have his way with me? And why did that thought make her insides melt?

“Better take this back,” Riddick continued, handing her back the breather. “You know they’ll think I stole it.”

Fortunately, it didn’t seem like anyone had noticed that yet, except maybe Jack. But he was right. Shazza had refused to make another breather for Riddick, although she had claimed that she was just out of parts… all Hell might break loose if she realized he’d acquired one anyway. She was very protective of the gear and of the younger members of the group. It would take an act of God Himself to get her to give Riddick a breather. Or let one of her “kids” — a group that included Fiona whether or not she wanted it to — give him one. That was a battle best avoided.

Before Jack could reach them, Fiona slung the unit back over her shoulders and took a small hit, deliberately lingering on keeping the mouthpiece between her lips.

Am I really doing this?

“Now I know what your mouth tastes like,” she told Riddick. Her voice cracked just a little on the last word and her mouth was suddenly dry.

She couldn’t see his eyes behind the goggles, but the goggles themselves shifted upward just a little. She was pretty sure she’d managed to surprise him.

“Johns says I’m supposed to come get you,” Jack said breathlessly as she joined them. The tall girl, still keeping up her boy masquerade, gave Riddick an apologetic look.

“You two go on ahead,” he said, an amused smile on his face. “I’m not far behind.”

As she and Jack hurried back to the rest of the group, Fiona found herself hoping that, given what seemed to be happening, the younger girl didn’t have a crush on Riddick. Or at least, not enough of one that it would cause problems if—

If what, though? What was happening here? With a pang, she wished Maggie were with her. Of the two of them, Maggie was the one who would have understood just what she was getting herself into.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 7

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 7 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 7 (formerly chapter 6) of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Riddick is surprised by an unexpected opportunity.

Riddick: Face To Face With an Angel

Riddick stared in amazement as the girl approached him. She put a package of cotton pads down, the little round things his foster sisters had used to apply something they called “toner” to their faces, resting it on his thigh as if it was the most normal thing in the ’verse to do, and began to struggle with the top of her vodka bottle.

“That’ll make me more thirsty, not less,” he commented. It was hard to hide his amused disbelief.

“It’s not for drinking,” she muttered, wrestling the top off. “It’s for your cuts. Closest thing to rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide I could find. Shame we lost the bloody med-locker.”

Smart girl. He looked her over again. She was all business now, opening up the package of cotton pads and taking one out, then soaking it in the alcohol. He could study her at his leisure while she worked. Her skin glistened with perspiration from the hot suns. She’d put her hair up rather haphazardly, and he felt a sudden, intense urge to run his fingers along her throat and bury them in her hair. The alcohol on his wounds was cold on his skin and stinging in his cuts, which somehow enhanced, rather than diminished, the arousal he suddenly felt. His pants had become uncomfortably tight; he wondered if she noticed.

“You never told me your name,” he murmured huskily.

She looked up at him, meeting his unprotected eyes for the first time. A lot of people flinched away when they saw his shine job, but a look of amazement crept across her face instead. “Fiona Cavanaugh. And you’re Richard Riddick.”

He let his voice drop lower, letting some of his arousal show. “Delighted to meet you.”

She seemed to completely miss the innuendoes he was sending her way, but for the first time since the crash, he saw her smile. It was a wan smile, but a real one. “A pleasure.”

“You do realize that you’re going to get in trouble with Johns again,” he told her.

“Fuck him,” she muttered, soaking another cotton pad.

“I’d rather not. He’s not really my type. You, on the other hand…”

That actually got a hint of a laugh out of her. “I am not fucking him.”

“That wasn’t what I was suggesting.”

Her eyes met his again, and he watched as a flush crept up her cheeks. Now you understand what I’m gettin’ at, babe. It was interesting to watch her without the goggles, seeing the movements of her body heat as it shifted across her skin. If he looked carefully, he could almost imagine that he was seeing through her clothes.

He was gratified to hear the answering huskiness in her voice when she spoke. “Turn your head a little.” He complied, letting her carefully swab the large bruise that the settler woman—he thought he’d heard Fry call her Shazza—had given him on the side of his skull. Gentle as she was, he still winced when she touched it. That one was going to hurt for days.

But in the meantime…

He knew he shouldn’t play these games. But it had been way too long since a woman had gotten this close to him, and it was tempting to see how much closer he could convince her to get and what she might be willing to do. Even if being chained up like this was about as far from his erotic fantasies as he could get.

But he didn’t even know if she was old enough for what he had in mind. Felon or not, that was something that mattered to him.

Never mind whether she’s sane enough, he reminded himself. Jackass.

As she finished tending his wounds, he heard the sound of the merry little group returning. They sounded agitated.

Way to kill the mood. “Sounds like they found Zeke’s real killers. You’d better scoot. Don’t want Johns yellin’ at you again, do we?”

“I don’t want him doing anything to you, either.”

Riddick smiled at the girl. It was a fierce smile, one that would normally warn people that even chained up he was still very, very dangerous. Its effect, however, appeared to be lost on her. “He won’t. Don’t worry about that.”

The concern on her face was plain, and it confused the hell out of him. Why did she care so much? “You sure?”

She was still close to him. Before he could stop himself, he leaned forward and brushed her lips with his. “I’m sure. Now you’d better go.”

Now the girl looked a little flustered as she gathered up her makeshift first aid kit and stood, and her scent had changed in a way that made him suspect all of the restraint he was trying to preach to himself was useless. This wasn’t over, for either of them. He heard her release a shaky breath as she started out of the darkened room.

She feels it, too. If Johns doesn’t kill me in the next few hours, I think this might just be happening.

“Fiona.” His voice was soft, but brought her to an abrupt halt nonetheless. She turned to look at him. “I’ll see you soon,” he told her, slipping as much promise into the words as he could.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 6

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 6 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 6 (formerly chapter 5) of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Fiona takes a different approach to finding out who, or what, really killed Zeke.

Fiona: Newer Grief

Fiona was deep inside a large bay in the cargo container, searching for food stashes, when the chaos started. She didn’t even know that anything had occurred until the frenzied shouting, including voices that had been absent for hours, grew loud enough to reach her through the walls. She emerged into the middle of a furious donnybrook.

Johns and Fry were dragging Riddick’s prone, unconscious body into the crash ship. For one horrible moment, Fiona thought he might be dead.

“Just kill him,” Shazza screamed. “Why the fuck won’t you just kill him?”

The Imam, his expression inscrutable, was attempting to restrain her with very little luck. She broke free, darted forward, and kicked at Riddick’s ribs. He groaned softly but did not regain consciousness. Fiona sidled over to Jack.

“What happened?”

“Riddick killed Zeke,” Jack hissed, her eyes never leaving the chaos.

“What? How?”

“Cut him up or something, out by the graves.”

Fry and Johns emerged from the ship, arguing. From what Fiona could overhear, Fry was asking why, in the light of how Zeke had died, there was no blood on Riddick’s knife or clothing.

Good question, she thought to herself. It deserves some answers. Soon.

First, however, Shazza needed comforting. She vaguely remembered that it was Shazza who had held her during the worst of her grief. However Zeke had died, whoever or whatever had killed him, the woman needed the same comfort in return.

The debate swirled around for several minutes. Paris and Shazza wanted Riddick killed immediately. Imam and his boys retreated from the fray altogether, leaving Riddick’s defense to Jack, Fry and — oddly enough — Johns. Holding Shazza in her arms, Fiona didn’t feel able to speak up for Riddick, as much as she inexplicably wanted to. Not that she could muster anything specific to say in his defense. Just a general feeling that everyone was becoming far too trigger-happy.

Finally Fry stalked off, muttering that she was going to question the man. A moment later, Jack sneaked after her. Fiona found herself simply holding Shazza while all of the male survivors watched them in an uneasy silence.

Having grown up on New Ireland, a colony world that her father had always claimed had brought the best and most egalitarian elements of Earth’s cultural past with it, this was Fiona’s first encounter with men who were so… utterly useless in the face of grief and suffering. Did none of them know what to do?

Riddick would, the thought came unbidden. She wasn’t sure what, in their brief interaction, made her believe this exactly… but she did believe. God, maybe I am crazy.

Jack returned first, looking disgruntled. Fry emerged from the hold a few minutes later, her expression deeply disturbed.

“We’re going to find Zeke’s body,” she snarled at Johns when he began to question her.

Shazza stiffened in Fiona’s arms, then broke free and followed Fry. Fiona followed alongside as Fry led them to the cargo container to fetch a long coil of rope. When the group headed for Zeke’s burial ground, though, she found herself hanging back. Her family’s graves were there, and she wasn’t ready to face that. Maybe she could get other answers, instead, while she waited.

Like why she kept having an impulse to trust a man that the newsfeeds had called a “remorseless killer.”

They had also claimed he was a “pure psychopath,” using a term her mother had snapped was centuries out of date in all but the worst publications, and maybe that was it— psychopaths were supposed to be charming. But it was also supposed to be a superficial charm, and Fiona had the strange feeling that she had detected the opposite: genuine concern for her and others carefully hidden behind a façade of cavalier detachment.

Shazza had used up Fiona’s astringent and moist wipes earlier, but she could improvise. She found what she was looking for almost immediately, in Paris’ locker — a bottle of unflavored vodka. It would have to do. From her sister’s locker, she fished out one last packet of cotton cosmetic pads, then carried her finds back over to the crash ship. In the distance, she could see the others clustering around a large hole where, she assumed, Zeke had died.

Riddick had been restrained differently this time. The chains ran through one of the ship’s ladders and looped around some of the other bulkheads, forcing his arms wide. Oddly enough, he almost looked like he was sitting on a throne rather than imprisoned. She took a moment to examine him in the filtered light. No blood. Plenty of new scrapes and bruises that he hadn’t had the last time they spoke, but no blood.

How to even ask about that, though? After all of the accusations that had already been thrown at him, would he even want to talk to her about it? She tried to imagine what her father would say in this moment. Something dry, and droll, and a little silly. Something to put a person at ease. Could she even do that?


“I didn’t realize you’d studied to be a tepanyaki chef,” she told him, after coming up with and discarding a dozen different lines.

His head came up with a quizzical frown. “Say what?”

“Well, that’s the only way I can think of that you could have filleted somebody in less than a minute without getting a drop of blood anywhere on you.” It was hard to speak so casually about Zeke’s brutal death, but the layer of numbness over all of her emotions helped. “That takes talent, not to mention training. I didn’t know they offered those courses in the prison system.”

A sly smile spread across his face as some of the tension left his shoulders. “What can I say? I have more talents than even I know about.”

“You didn’t kill him.” She wasn’t asking; she knew.

“No,” he replied softly, a new look of respect dawning on his dark features. “I didn’t.”

“So who did, then?” Had another survivor seen Zeke kill the man by the cargo container and targeted him for vengeance? That made no sense. But maybe he had seen something from his brief vantage point in Paris’s chair.

“Not who, lady. What.

She had no idea what to say to that. The others were convinced that the planet was barren. Dead. But he was saying that it wasn’t. That they weren’t alone here, and that whatever else was here, it wasn’t friendly. Her whole spirit reflexively shuddered back from the idea.

“Something very, very fast,” he continued after a moment, his expression pensive. “Something much more dangerous than I’ve ever been.”

She believed him, she realized, as much as part of her didn’t want to. It wasn’t just that he hadn’t killed Zeke… he was worried about what had. Whatever had actually killed Shazza’s husband was a genuine danger to everyone, including him. For a moment she felt an impulse to run from the ship, over to the graves, and warn everyone.

But just because she believed him didn’t mean that they would. They were only just coming to terms with the threats they already knew about; more would be overwhelming, and their minds would shy away from the idea the way hers had tried to. Most of them thought she was out of her mind, anyway. She wasn’t even sure they were wrong, but it did mean that she had very little credibility, especially when it came to believing the warnings of someone they were already refusing to listen to. It wasn’t as if she had a tangible threat in mind, anyway. Everything she knew, they already knew, too. They just didn’t believe… yet.

As much as it twisted at her insides, she was going to have to let them find out for themselves what could make a man like Riddick feel fear.

Still, she didn’t have to be completely useless while she waited. Fiona stepped closer, walking over to his side.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 5

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 5 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 5 of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this completely new chapter, Riddick makes some changes to his plans… but maybe not in time.

Riddick: Pouring One Out

Well, that had been several exercises in futility.

The inside of the crash ship was relatively cool and completely deserted. It was a good place to regroup and collect his thoughts.

Riddick had seen a lot of things on his tours of duty, but he’d never seen a planet with three suns before. Not one where people could survive on the surface. The disappointment and frustration over completely losing the cover of darkness was almost eclipsed by his sheer, absurd wonderment at the existence of such a thing.

He’d shadowed Billy and his little brigade for part of their water hunt, but had soon found himself doubling back to check on the prospects closer to home. That merry troop had moved far enough away that they no longer posed an immediate threat. The ones who had been left behind, though, might be vulnerable.

Not to him, in particular. Johns might like to tell stories about him killing indiscriminately, but that was far from the truth. He was more concerned about whatever was behind the bloody cryo locker and its missing contents.

The Englishman incongruously named Paris, he’d soon decided, was the ’verse’s worst sentry, too focused on his cigars and caviar to even notice Riddick’s approach. When something finally did catch his attention, he proved even less impressive.

Idiot, Riddick had thought as he climbed up on top of the ship and watched Paris stalking toward the cargo container. You don’t desert your post. You sound an alarm and stay where you can see what’s happening. Guess I’ll have to do that part for you.

He’d vaguely recognized the man who was staggering toward the container as one of the unconscious-or-dead people he’d seen in the cryo lockers he’d unlocked. Not a threat.

Zeke, however, creeping up behind the man with Johns’ pistol drawn… that was a problem.

Resting now in the cool depths of the ship, Riddick took a small pull from the wine bottle he’d liberated and considered his options.

Zeke would be trouble. Paranoid, on high alert, willing to shoot without warning or provocation… and a damned good shot. His first order of business would have to be getting that gun away from him. Then maybe they could have a nice conversation about what was really what… once he knew that the man couldn’t shoot him. Until then, Zeke was a mortal threat, and not just to him.

One more sip from the bottle and he decided he was done. Any more and he’d lose his edge. The wine was probably the only liquid they had to drink, but that actually made the alcohol in it more dangerous than ever. Better the others got tipsy first; he needed to keep his head clear. Especially because disarming Zeke might not be as easy as he would like.

He carried the bottle with him to a rent in the ship’s hull, on the side away from prying eyes. He was pretty sure the crazy girl had spotted him, but for whatever reason she had kept her mouth shut. Still, he’d prefer not to have people aware of his movements. Not until he was in a stronger position, anyway. Not until he’d dealt with Zeke.

“Sorry about that, man,” he murmured, lifting the bottle for a moment in a toast to the newly-dead. He wondered if any others would wander in from the tubes he’d unlocked and hoped if any did, the survivors would be less jumpy about them. Tilting the bottle, he poured a little out for the fallen, whoever the hell the man had been. And, he thought with a frown, whoever had been in that bloody locker.

He set the bottle down in a nice, shadowy, almost-cool nook of the crash ship before exiting. It was time to deal with Zeke.

As he circled around the area Zeke had chosen for a burial ground, he felt a chill move through him. Some of the same whistling he had heard near the opened cryo locker was sounding through the strange formations nearby. And other disturbingly animal-like noises, as well.

That ain’t just the wind, he thought after a moment and frowned again. Zeke, dragging the body of the man he’d shot over to the grave he’d just finished digging, seemed completely oblivious to the sounds. So much for being on high alert.

Palming his makeshift blade, Riddick decided that he definitely needed that gun more than ever.

A moment later he realized it was already too late.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 4

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 4 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 4 of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Fiona deals with the fallout of a shooting, and spies someone spying on her and the others.

Fiona: Eye To Eye With the Devil

“Seriously, Fiona, I’m fine.”

“You’re not, Jack. Your face is turning red.” It was a little hard to tell in the light of the newly-risen third sun — everything looked bluish — but Fiona was positive that the heat and exertion were overwhelming the younger girl.

“So are your shoulders.

Well, damn, they did feel itchy. Of course she was getting sunburnt. “Then let’s both get out of the sun. I’m sure Shazza will understand when she sees us.”

Shazza, who had put the now-notorious cutting torch to work at opening doors in the cargo container, immediately conscripted the two of them to help her in its shade. Fiona begged off for a few minutes so she could hunt up the sunblock and aloe she knew was in her family’s already-open unit, because the itch was starting to turn into a genuine sting. That was how she missed the start of the excitement.

She was still in the process of slathering lotion on her shoulders and back when she heard Jack shout “No!”

Had Mr. Riddick returned? She set the lotions aside, glancing around the compartment for the pry-bar Shazza had given her just moments earlier. Her own survival still didn’t hold much allure for her, but if Jack was in trouble—

A man’s voice, one she didn’t recognize, high with stress and definitely not Riddick’s, began to speak. His words were muffled by the compartment wall, but before she could begin to piece together what he was saying, shots rang out.

Fiona ran back into the main corridor, her pry-bar uselessly raised in one hand, in time to see a strange man crumple to the ground in front of Shazza, Jack, and Paris. Shazza, she realized, was liberally splashed with the man’s blood. Zeke stood a short distance from the cargo container’s opening, lowering a gun.

“It was just somebody else,” Jack was yelling at Zeke. “Somebody else from the crash!

Fiona barely heard Zeke’s answer, arrested by the sight of the man on the ground. For one horrible moment, she’d thought it was her father. The build was similar, but after a closer look her heart stopped lurching and calmed. It wasn’t. Of course it wasn’t. Her father had died hours ago. A pang of grief skewered her as she realized that she’d gotten through the last several hours by pretending her family was still alive and just off in some other part of the crash site. Whoever this poor man had been, he was a stranger to her. Much of his body was covered in second and third-degree burns, she noticed, wondering if he would have actually survived much longer if Zeke hadn’t shot him.

She stood up and moved away from the body, which still had the full attention of the others, and found herself transfixed.

Someone was sitting on top of the crash ship, in Paris’s chair.

Someone she recognized.


Her breath caught and held. Beside her, she could hear the others still fussing over what Zeke had done, unaware. As she watched, Riddick raised one of Paris’s wine bottles in their direction in a mocking toast before taking a long swallow. She could feel his eyes on them, on her. She almost thought she could make out a smirk on his face and wished her distance vision was better.

Hide, she thought urgently, the nauseating copper tang of blood catching in her nose and throat. They’ll kill you if they see you. Hide!

There was no way he could hear her unspoken thoughts, but almost as if in answer, Riddick stood, stretched once, and dropped lightly to the desert floor. Bottle still in hand, he vanished behind the ship.

The breath that had been lodged in her throat escaped at last.

“Well, now you have one more grave to dig, Zeke,” Shazza groused. “Let’s hope it’s the last. Faugh, I need to get this blood off me.”

“Hey Fiona, you have anything she can use to clean up with?” Jack asked, drawing her eyes away from the ship.

She nodded, hoping her voice would be steady when she spoke and then realizing they wouldn’t care if it wasn’t. “Let me go grab it.”

Her voice, she realized, was entirely too steady. She knew she should be shocked. She should be horrified at how casually death had been meted out to a total stranger, a harmless stranger. She should feel something, but the closest she was able to come was her concern for Jack… and, surprisingly, for Riddick. As she dug a bottle of astringent out of her locker, she wondered how long she would stay numb.

And worse, what would happen once the numbness receded.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 3

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 3 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 3 of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this heavily reworked chapter, Riddick makes his way back to the crash ship after having fruitlessly explored the nearby area, still operating under the assumption that this planet has normal days and nights.

Riddick: Watcher in the Hills

Recon didn’t take long at all. Accustomed as he was to hiding in plain sight and negotiating unfriendly terrain, the crash site posed no real challenges to him. Riddick wasn’t sure if his findings left him impressed with the pilot’s skill or amazed she’d managed to land the craft at all.

The ship had skidded for more than a mile during its crash-landing, leaving a deep groove in the desert as it had torn itself to pieces. Cryo pods had gone flying and were scattered along the back trail. He’d popped the locks on a few, unsure whether their inhabitants still lived but figuring he’d give them as much of a chance as possible. One container, however, disturbed him. It had been wrenched open and was empty, with a small spatter of blood nearby… and what looked like claw marks, or the marks of fingers desperately digging into the soil and being dragged, leading to a small hole in the ground. There was more blood on the hole’s rocky edges, but no sign of the cryo pod’s inhabitant.

He had listened by the hole for several minutes but hadn’t heard anything else, except possibly wind whistling through the nearby rocks.

In the far distance, toward the end of the ship’s skid marks, he could see the wreckage of yet another cargo container. There was no point in even trying to hike the distance to see what was inside it, though; it was burning with dangerous intensity. Useless.

Okay, he told himself as he doubled back. That leaves the resources on board the ship itself, and the cargo container the other survivors are already plundering. Plus whatever exists in nature here.

The heat was powerful, but not the kind of oppressive heat that came with humidity. This was dry, thin air, thin enough that he had felt a little light-headed until he got used to it. He bet it would get every bit as cold when night fell.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time he’d done a night raid to get something warm to wear. His first order of business would be to take Johns out, but the man’s jacket would be way too small for him. Maybe one of the others would have something larger and feel inclined to share. Assuming that the cargo container with everybody’s clothes wasn’t the one burning merrily in the distance, of course.

Next order of business: he told himself, find out what everybody’s up to and how they’re planning on circling the wagons. Johns would be filling their heads with horror stories about him, of course. One or two might even be true.

The crazy girl and another kid had been put to work, he saw. The two were slowly making their way from the cargo container to the main crash ship, a large crate with Emergency Ration labels emblazoned on its sides awkwardly carried between them. In the intense heat, the girl had stripped down to a small halter top and shorts, and he took a moment to just enjoy the show. Weirdly enough, though, the boy still had several layers of clothing on and seemed loathe to shed them, even though he was clearly suffering in the heat.

That’s gotta be damned uncomfortable, he thought, and frowned. More than that, it was dangerous. Tryin’ to give yourself heat stroke, kid? You need to at least take off that vest.

Long sleeves, vest, hat, trousers… the kid was going to be comfortable enough come nightfall, but working in those clothes now put him at serious risk. Was he that self-conscious around the girl? Riddick had vague memories of feeling intimidated by that kind of beauty when he was the boy’s age—

Was I ever that young? Really?

But still, this was dangerous. Very dangerous.

He stole closer, feeling an irrational urge to protect the kids.

This is how Billy catches you, asshole, he reminded himself. And yet he crept closer still.

The Slow Burn, Chapter 2

Title: The Slow Burn
Chapter: 2 of ?
Fandom: Pitch Black
Synopsis: This is a reworked version of chapter 2 of The Slow Burn, which was my first attempt at fan fiction. It was semi-successful, but I stopped writing it after I found my real calling with Apprentice. Now I’m revisiting it. The story adds an original character to the group of survivors, and this time around I’m trying to strip away any and all Mary Sue qualities she possessed. In this chapter, Riddick has escaped and Fiona learns a fellow passenger’s Big Secret.

Fiona: Girls Traveling Alone

“You stupid bitch, this is your fault!”

The survivors had gathered around them as Johns and Fiona faced off. Johns was waving the cut-up pieces of Riddick’s chains in her face, his own face almost purple with rage.

“What, did he bite through them?” It was probably a bad idea to provoke him further, Fiona reflected. Then again, maybe she’d get lucky and he’d shoot her.

“No, you fucking cunt, he used this!” Johns flung the chains down and grabbed a cutting torch out of his vest. Then he threw it to the ground as well.

“Careful, Mate! We need that!” Zeke stepped forward, grabbing the torch. Engrossed in making sure that it hadn’t been damaged, he missed the look of pure rage Johns flung at him.

He’s completely out of control, Fiona thought, watching Johns.

Good, a strange voice within her replied. Good. She shook her head, trying to clear it away.

“What happened?” Paris demanded. She spared him a swift glance, unimpressed. She’d noticed him earlier and had heard him talking to the others, and it had left her with a distaste for him. He used the sort of effete superiority that mining executives had leveled at her father, in spite of the fact that their academic credentials were far eclipsed by his—

I can’t think about my father now. The wall of pain rose up for her and she fled from it.

“Riddick escaped, that’s what happened!” Johns bellowed. “This idiot distracted me while he made his escape—”

Fiona turned away because she knew she was dangerously close to laughing at the man. That probably wouldn’t be the smartest of moves. The problem was that she kept hearing her father, muttering “redheads and fiery tempers, Fee,” almost as if he was actually standing beside her.

How many voices can fit in my head?

She didn’t dare laugh. She suspected that the tears wouldn’t be far behind, and she didn’t know if she’d be able to stop them again once they started up again.

“Do we have any weapons we can defend ourselves with?” That came from the wild-haired woman who had held Fiona earlier while she’d screamed and sobbed for—

Do not think about it! She concentrated on taking another step away from the group and towards the cargo container. Walk. Just like a normal person. Walk.

“I’ve got a rifle and a pistol. That’s it. Any of the rest of you packin’?”

A murmur of negation ran through the group. Fiona managed another step, feeling more sure of her movements. Behind her, Paris spoke up once more.

“I have a collection of antique tribal weapons, among my things. Perhaps there are some useful items in—”

“Where do you think you’re goin’?” Johns grabbed at her shoulder, swinging her back around to face him, but one of the others — the Muslim cleric — knocked his hand away.

“Mr. Johns, enough! I’m sure she did not mean to—”

She didn’t stay to listen but made herself keep walking, heading for the cargo container. A moment later, a boy fell into step beside her.

“Hey, Fiona, right?”

The boy was tallish and slender, with delicate, almost pixie-ish features. Light brown hair had been cut unevenly, as if in a hurry, and was tucked beneath a cap. The boy was dressed in a way that made Fiona think of old Twentieth Century movies about vagabond children.


“I’m Jack.” The boy flashed her a grin. “What’s he like?”

“Hmm?” She turned and glanced at him, a little confused by the abrupt shift.

“Riddick. What’s he like? Is he as scary as the newsfeeds made out?”

“I don’t know,” Fiona replied. Riddick? She’d heard that name before. It had been in the feeds the day before they boarded the ship. Spree Killer Captured At Last…

Oh dear. Is that who he is?

“Not really,” she continued. “Maybe. I’m probably not a very good judge right now.”

“Look, Fiona… are you going to your cargo locker?”


“I was wondering… well… you see…” Jack’s voice trailed off.

Fiona turned, afraid that she was about to get hit with some juvenile proposition. She hoped the boy didn’t have a crush on her or something. She was probably five or six years older than him, and it was the last thing she wanted to deal with right now.

Is there anything you want to deal with right now?

Fair question, even if the voice’s presence disturbed her. There wasn’t. She wanted to be somewhere quiet and empty. Where movement wasn’t an issue or a requirement. Where she didn’t have to see or hear, think or feel.

The deep unease on the boy’s face confused her. Was her unbalanced state so obvious?

Jack took a deep breath and finished the question in a rush. “Do you have any tampons?”

Fiona stared. She forced herself to look — really look — at the youth.

“You’re a girl,” she decided after a moment.

Jack looked around, nervous. “Yeah. But look, please don’t tell anybody, okay? You know how it is… a girl traveling alone…”

Alone. No family. A thousand synonyms flashed through her head and chipped away at the fragile scab over her grief. The weight of it came crashing back down on her. No wonder she didn’t want to move.

“Oh shit, I’m sorry, Fiona, I didn’t mean—”

She took a deep breath and forced the pain back into its cage. “It’s okay. I’d probably try to disguise myself as a boy, too, in those circumstances, if I thought I could actually fool anyone.” She turned and began walking toward the storage container’s far side, where the smaller, private passenger lockers were located. “I think I have some tampons in my gear, sure. Come on.”

She had a large box of them, in fact. While Fiona stood look-out, Jack cleaned herself up and changed, chattering in a deliberately deep and boyish tone about her adventures stowing away on freighters and even the occasional cruise liner. Heading out into the day again, they were confronted by the wild-haired woman.

“There you two are! Don’t go wandering away like that again, yeah? I thought Riddick might’ve grabbed you.”

Jack looked down for a second and then gave her a shy grin. “Sorry, Shazza.”

Shazza smiled, relenting. “It’s okay. Just stick close from here on out. C’mon, now. We’ve got weapons, and you two need to pick some for yourselves.”

Fiona frowned as she and Jack trudged after Shazza, back towards the main section of the ship. Weapons…

“The thing you need to keep in mind about a weapon, Fee,” her father had told her, “is it’s something that can be taken from you and used against you. Knives and guns are tempting things to people who want to feel powerful, but they don’t necessarily make you safer. If your opponent is bigger, stronger, faster, or better trained than you, he’ll still have the advantage. Drawing a weapon is often a provocation to even greater violence…”

Should she take one or shouldn’t she? She wasn’t sure.

Conversation swirled around her in the ship as Johns described what a depraved creature Riddick would be. She watched as Jack picked out a hunting boomerang, frowning. Looking dubiously over the remaining weapons, she reached out and then her hand stopped.

I really don’t have the first idea how to use any of these things.

Her father always said those were the most dangerous weapons of all, the ones that were wielded without any knowledge or understanding. Riddick, she knew, could take any of them out of her hands in a second.

Her fingers hovered over the weapons. Take one or not? What were the risks in each direction?

He might kill me fast if he thinks I’m going to fight… Her hand began to reach for the blow-gun.

The absurdity of it all startled a giggle out of her. She covered her mouth quickly, thankful that everyone else had moved away. Images crowded into her head of just exactly how she might use such a thing in a defensive situation, each more ridiculous than the last. I’m a fool.

Fiona gazed down at the blow-gun, studying its contours. Her mother would have loved the carving on it. The giggle, beneath her hand, turned into a sob. She leaned against the table, taking several deep breaths.

The blow-gun was still on the counter when she headed back out into the sun.

Ardath Rekha • Works in Progress