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.