Title: Chance Encounters
Author: Sullen Gurl
Email: blasie007 AT yahoo.com
Rating: MATURE
Summary: In this alternate universe, Riddick and Fry had already met prior to the events in the movie, Pitch Black. Set before Riddick gets sent to The Slam.
Disclaimers: All characters pertaining to Pitch Black belong to USA Films.

 

"YEAH!!"

"GET 'EM!!!!"

"KILL THAT FUCKER!"

It was utter chaos in Section G of the Orion Maximum Security Prison. A fight had broken out in one of the cells. Two inmates were at each other's throats while the other prisoners watched and cheered them on. The guards on duty at the time couldn't get the place to settle down and so called on Harris to handle the "situation".

"Hey! Break it up! Everyone cut that shit RIGHT NOW!," Chief Warden Harris yelled over the din.

At Harris' orders, three prison guards armed with stun guns threw open the cell doors and zapped the two brawling prisoners. They loosened their stranglehold on each other and crumpled almost immediately to the floor. The cheering grew louder. Most of the other prisoners now had their faces pressed against the bars, trying to get a glimpse of the action. But not Prisoner GF310. Richard B. Riddick was sitting quietly in his cell, almost oblivious to the commotion around him, deep in thought. You could say he wasn't the excitable type. Besides, he couldn't care less if all these assholes killed each other.

"Knock it off! This isn't the fucking Roman coliseum," Harris yelled again.

Some shut up, but most kept on hollering and banging their cups against the bars. Seriously pissed off now, Harris unbuckled his own stun gun from his utility belt and held it high above his head for everyone to see.

"You want a piece of this, huh!?! Well, I'll give it to 'ya if y'all don't SHUT IT!"

That got them. The shouting gradually petered out into just mumbling and coughing. Everyone in Section G has had a dose of Harris' stun gun, which by the way had the highest voltage. It wasn't an experience they were eager to reprise. The chief looked all around him. Satisfied that all the other inmates had settled down somewhat, he set his own stun gun aside and turned to the two prisoners who started the whole mess. They were coming to, groaning and clutching at their sides.

"Git 'em up," he commanded the prison guards.

"As for the rest of you," he said to the whole of Section G, "I don't wan to have to come down here to do that again. I swear, half the time, you'd think I was watching over a bunch of kindergarten kids the way you go on. We have folks coming by and I want none of this shit. Do we understand each other?"

Nobody answered him. It wasn't like they had a choice, anyway, what with the prison guards and their gauges and stun guns. Plus they were scared of Harris. He was a mean son of a bitch, even by THEIR standards. He was a big, bulky guy, but agile despite his size. He could take them on, criminal or not. But they DID enjoy messing around with him once in a while. Such was prison life. Sometimes you had to get yourself into trouble just to break the monotony.

Harris walked down the corridor and stopped just in front of Riddick's cell. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and smirked at him.

"Well, well, Mr. Riddick. Looks like today's the big day, huh? The Slam." He let out a low whistle. "You've hit the big time now, you lucky bastard."

Undaunted, Riddick raised his head and gave him a sardonic smile.

"Can't wait, Chief."

Harris glowered at him.

"You listen to ME, you smart-ass. Just one day at The Slam and you'll be begging to be let in back here. But guess what?" Harris leaned forward. "I won't give a rat's ass, " he sneered.

Riddick didn't have an answer for THAT one. He knew what the warden said to be true. All the horror stories he's heard about The Slam…

"Chief!! There's a call for you.," one of the jail guards bellowed from the office.

Harris glared at Riddick a moment longer before finally turning back and heading towards his office.

------------------------------------------------------------

"Fry! How's everything down there?," Capt. Gallagher called from the cockpit of the Terra-Valor transport ship.

Fry looked over the controls of the cargo deck and scanned the screens one last time.

"All systems check, Captain. We're good to get to The Slam and back," she said into the radio.

"Good, good," the captain said. "We wouldn't want anything to happen with those assholes onboard."

His co-pilot, Commander Delaney, cast him a nervous glance.

"I don't even want to joke about it."

"Hey, relax Delaney," the captain said with a chuckle. "I've done this a million times. Nothing to worry about. It's all routine, really. We arrive at Orion, pick 'em up and dump 'em in The Slam."

"Sure. But it's what could happen in between that worries me."

"In between? Are you kidding me? They'll be up to their eyeballs in restraints," Gallagher reassured him.

Just then, Fry joined them in the cockpit. She, too , wanted to be reassured. But if there was anything she learned at the Academy, it was to put on a brave face no matter what. Truth be told, she didn't want to go on this assignment in the first place. But she wasn't about to pass up an opportunity to work alongside the notorious Captain Gallagher. Everyone has read about Capt. Gallagher and his intergalactic adventures. And here she was in the same cockpit with him. Plus, she was determined to reach the top. And if that meant going on nasty trips like these, then hell, she'd do it. But what she really wanted to do was pilot.

I'm getting there, she told herself.

"…bit, chains, clamp, the whole kit 'n caboodle," the captain was saying.

"Will they be put in cryosleep?" Fry asked.

"Hell, no. Trip won't be that long. Won't be necessary."

"Let's hope not," Delaney said.

Fry held on to the handle overhead and took a deep breath as the Orion came into the ship's view.

It's showtime, she thought.

------------------------------------------------------------

Riddick sat in his bunk, eyes closed and head leaning against the cold wall. His body was still, breathing slow and steady, but his mind was working overtime. In his head, he was going over several ways of escape; to avoid the destiny that awaited him at The Slam. There was no chance in hell they were taking him there. One thing was certain though, he couldn't break out of the Orion. There were too many guards and of course, there was Harris. There were the other inmates to factor in. Complications could abound…

Riddick cleared his head. Bad time to be distracted , he reminded himself. After a few more moments, a thought occurred to him. Still with his eyes closed, the corners of his mouth slowly lifted in a wicked smile.

I'll make my move on the transport ship, he thought.

He didn't have a clear plan. YET. But he knew it HAD to be there. The minutes were ticking by and he was quickly running out of options. Desperate times called for desperate action. Besides, he could pilot a juiced-up ship, no problem. And by the time authorities realize he had hijacked the ship, he'd be long gone by then. Riddick's mind relaxed, content at the decision he had just made.

He opened his eyes when he heard movements just outside his cell and saw that the chief stood just a couple of feet away from the bars. Seemed like the transport ship had arrived and the chief was waiting to meet the crew. He was barking out orders as the jail guards scurried up and down the hallway. After a few more minutes, Riddick heard the familiar buzzer go off. The metal doors of the ward swished open, then slammed shut. Just by listening to the footsteps, he calculated there to be five people striding down the corridor towards Harris. He also heard several low whistles and a couple of catcalls. He smiled knowingly.

A woman , he thought.

Riddick swung his legs over the side of his bunk. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. Now would be the perfect time to size up the crew and get an idea of what he was up against. Harris already had his hand outstretched; an unusually warm and engaging smile on his face as the visitors approached him.

From the shadows of the cell where he sat, he could see that two jail guards accompanied the crew, which consisted of two men and a woman. It was clear to him who the leader of the gig was. He had the fanciest uniform and the most insignias on his collar. Not only was he the eldest, but years of experience were etched into this man's features, and he exuded an aura of natural authority and control. Riddick new his old age was not to be underestimated. His looked like eyes that had pretty much seen it all.

Well he ain't seen nothing yet , he thought.

"Ah, Captain Gallagher. It's an honor to have you here at The Orion," Harris said, shaking his hand firmly. Gallagher nodded then gestured to his companions and said, "This is the rest of my crew. Meet Commander Noah Delaney and Lt. Carolyn Fry."

Harris glanced at them uninterestedly before returning his full attention back to Gallagher. Fry gave Delaney a meaningful look and rolled her eyes. Delaney smirked back at her.

Meanwhile, Riddick had shifted his gaze onto the man beside the Captain.

THIS one is a piece of cake , Riddick thought, smirking. He could smell his fear from way over where he sat. He noticed that despite trying to keep up a brave face, he kept wiping at his forehead and glancing nervously around him; as if one of the prisoners would tear through the bars and jump on them.

Yup. Big gun, no balls. He won't be any trouble, Riddick concluded, mentally dismissing Delaney.

Now the woman.

Previously, the captain had stood between her and his cell in such a way that blocked Riddick's view of her. But now that Gallagher had stepped forward to have a private word with Harris, he could finally see the female crewmate as clearly as if she were right in front of him.

"Interesting." he said under his breath, when the woman finally came into view.

Now this, THIS might be a problem , he thought, frowning. He'd never had qualms about killing women. Hell, he had done it before when he needed to. There had been no hesitations and no regrets. Then again, he'd never had to kill anyone as attractive as this woman who was standing just a few feet from his cell. The woman was of average height and slender build. She had short, tousled dirty blond hair that barely touched the collar of her uniform, but brushed her forehead just above her aquamarine eyes. Just by looking at her, he could tell she was not to be underrated as quickly. Her sleeveless top revealed toned arms and her black leather pants hinted of strong, lithe legs. She also had a somewhat quiet dignity about her. And around this galaxy, you didn't get to be Lt. on looks alone. He noticed that she was calmly looking around her, taking everything in. Riddick caught himself and shook his head, as if to shake out his very thoughts.

I've been in this bitch of a cell for too long , he rationalized. He shook his head again. Ah, who was he kidding? He knew that under any circumstance, he would have still found her attractive.

"Too bad I'll have to ghost her," he told himself.

-------------------------------------------------------------

Unaware that the Capt. and Delaney had moved on and that Riddick was silently watching her every move, Fry stood where she was and surveyed Section G. She had never been to a maximum-security ward before. After all, this wasn't the type of mission she normally got sent on, so she had to admit she was interested. She had glanced curiously into almost all the cells nearby like she would if she were in a zoo looking at caged animals. Except for this one closest to her, she noticed. She turned her head and squinted to get a better look. She saw its occupant for the first time, and the sight that greeted her made her pulse race.

The man she saw was sitting in his bunk, and he had positioned himself just partly in the light. Carolyn could see his right half, but the other half remained in the shadows. As if reading her mind, the man moved his head an inch to the side. That was all it took for Fry to see his face fully, and she realized that he was staring back at her. She met his gaze dead-on and for some insane reason, couldn't bring herself to look away.

This guy has DANGEROUS written all over him , she thought to herself, somewhat awed.

THIS prisoner certainly looked like he belonged in maximum security. He was a massive man with a shaved head and bronzed complexion. She noticed that his tan regulation overalls were unbuttoned down to his waist, as Fry's eyes drifted to the beads of moisture that glistened on his smooth, wide chest. His sleeves were rolled up to reveal strong, muscled arms. This man is ripped, she thought absently. She quickly brought her eyes back up to his face and found that he continued to hold his gaze.

"Look away," a small part of her brain commanded her. But another part, certainly the stronger part, said, "But this guy has the most mesmerizing pair of brown eyes this side of the univer…"

"Fry!!"

Her head jerked back like she was snapped out of a hypnotic trance. The captain must have called her more than once because he had a concerned yet suspicious look on his face. Without looking back at the cell or the man in it, Fry jogged to where the captain and Delaney were standing.

------------------------------------------------------------

Riddick couldn't believe he let the woman catch him staring at her like that. That was certainly NOT part of the plan. To look away quickly would have been too obvious, he felt. Besides, that wasn't his style. So he just held his gaze; and he wasn't disappointed. Not at all. For as long as he could remember, people looked at him with either fear or distrust. But this woman…there was no censure in his eyes; she had regarded him simply with open curiosity. Sure she had looked frightened at first, but she had quickly regained her composure and had stared back at him almost defiantly. The way she looked into his eyes…it was like she was peering into his soul. And as difficult as it was for Riddick to admit, he hadn't minded that at all. Fact of the matter was, he couldn't tear his eyes away from hers even if he wanted to.

Riddick tilted his head to the side, as if trying to recall something.

Now what did he say her name was? , he thought.

Fry, he remembered. Lt. Carolyn Fry.

"Carolyn Fry," he said to the empty cell, feeling the way her name rolled off his tongue. Riddick allowed himself a small smile before moving back into the shadows.

------------------------------------------------------------

"Okay, Chief. Let's cut to the chase, shall we? What have you got for us?", Gallagher asked him.

"Well," the warden said, flipping open his record book. "You've got yourself a handful this time…"

"What happened to YOU?," Delaney murmured to Fry as soon as she rejoined them, while Harris rambled on. He noticed that Fry was flushed and short of breath.

"Oh, nothing." she replied hurriedly, turning her attention to Harris, pretending to be engrossed with whatever he was saying. Delaney gave her a suspicious look before doing the same.

"…so let me introduce you to the lucky bastards," Harris said.

Fry swore she heard Delaney gulp.

"Hey," she murmured, nudging him. "You okay?"

"Yeah," he muttered. "I'm perfect." He wiped at his brow for what could possibly be the hundredth time before turning his back on her. Fry just shrugged and walked towards where the Capt. and the warden were. They were standing beside a cell and Harris was enumerating the history of offenses of a certain convict named Mick Towne.

"…raped two old ladies back at the Astarte Zone and molested more than 8 kids in The Valkyries-Explorer."

Fry peered over the captain's shoulder to get a glimpse of the man. He had a gaunt face and long stringy black hair that reached to his chin. His overalls were loose around his gangly body, and his arms were long and bony. Not the best looking guy this side of the solar system, that was for sure. When he caught Fry looking at him from behind the captain, he grinned lasciviously and gave her a wink. She cringed when she saw that all his teeth were gold-plated.

The warden led them 2 cells down from the serial rapist. In this next cell, they found the prisoner lying on his bunk. He was on his back and his eyes were closed. His hands folded behind his head and his legs were crossed at the ankles.

"And over here," Harris said, gesturing to the "sleeping" man, "is Prisoner PT1834. Colter Hyde, master thief. You remember that high-security vault at the…"

Fry tuned Harris out and looked at the man in the cell more closely. She had to admit the man intrigued her. He didn't look like your average run-of-the-mill convict. Actually, he didn't look like a convict at all. Carolyn thought he could even be quite attractive, not that he was her type really. He had sandy brown hair that was parted in the middle, reaching almost to his ears, and thick long eyelashes. High cheekbones emphasized the patrician look of his features. Carolyn had to suppress a smile when Gallagher glanced at her reproachfully.

The warden, meanwhile, held onto the bars and rattled them.

"Ready for your big move?" he taunted Hyde.

Without opening his eyes, Hyde raised his right fist in the air and flipped them all the bird. Harris dismissed the gesture with a wave of his hand. He turned to the crew and clapped his hands together, a glint in his eye.

"And last, but most certainly never the least, there's Prisoner GF3106. Follow me."

Without another word, he turned away and started walking down the corridor. Delaney and Fry looked at each other quizzically, wondering what the mysterious introduction was all about, before following the warden. Captain Gallagher, however, had been nonchalant the whole time; like nothing he had been shown ever since they arrived impressed or surprised him. Fry's eyes widened once she realized whose cell Harris was headed.

"No way," she whispered.

When Harris indeed stopped in front of the cell where she saw THAT man, the man partly hidden in the shadows, a rush of sensations surged through Fry. She felt apprehensive, embarrassed and excited all at the same time. She was honestly surprised at how strong her reactions were, especially since they were towards someone she didn't even know.

"Now THIS guy you gotta keep your eye on," Harris said. "Richard B. Riddick. MURDERER." He said it dramatically, as if expecting that last word to strike terror in their hearts. It seemed to do just that for Delaney, seeing as how he took a few step backwards to put some distance between him and the cell. Fry, in the meantime, found herself straining her ears to catch his name.

So I'm curious, so what?, she thought defensively.

Up until then, Fry had looked everywhere else except directly at Riddick, but she couldn't help herself. She darted a quick glance at him and was relieved to find that he was silently looking at the Captain. She had to wonder if he was doing the same thing, avoiding eye contact with her. He was half-lying down on his bunk, leaning back onto his big arms, which were propped behind him for support. For someone who was about to be sent to the Slam, he looked too damn comfortable, she observed. While Harris rambled on, he kept silent. The Captain, however, was not the least bit interested. For him, Riddick was cargo he had to unload. He turned to the warden.

"Alright, Harris, if that's all, my crew and I will go ahead and prep the ship. We expect these prisoners chained and ready to be loaded in 15 minutes by the docking ramp," he informed him, all business and no nonsense.

Once Gallagher spoke, Fry automatically shifted her attention to him and listened attentively. Unbeknownst to her, the very second she averted her eyes from Riddick and onto the Captain, Riddick had swung his gaze onto her.

"Of course, Captain," Harris replied, then looked over his shoulder and signaled to one of the prison guards. The prison guard nodded and spoke into his radio. Seconds later, an alarm rang and the doors to Section G slid open. Fry and Delaney swung around and saw a team of what she assumed to be special guards assigned to escort the prisoners to be transported. They wore what looked something like riot gear; complete with mask, pads, armor and gauge. They positioned themselves in a neat formation, waiting for Harris' instructions.

Delaney let out a low whistle. Fry didn't know what it was, but something compelled her to look back at Riddick. He seemed to be looking at the special squad with mostly disinterest and mild amusement. He, in the meantime, noticed Fry looking back at him, and saw her wearing an anxious and troubled expression. She quickly looked away and strode to the Captain's side, who was bent over a desk signing some papers Harris was handing him.

------------------------------------------------------------

Riddick frowned, wondering if he had read her face right. Was she actually worried FOR him, he asked himself incredulously. No, that couldn't be right, he reasoned out. Then what was…

His attention was quickly brought back to the matter at hand, when the door to his cell slid open. He looked up to see an armed and heavily armored special guard looming over him.

"It's time," he told Riddick.

------------------------------------------------------------

40 minutes into the flight, Carolyn unstrapped herself and peered out the side of the cockpit to watch pieces of rock against the pitch black hurtling by. Take-off and the first hour of a flight are usually the most tiresome, but the crew of Memento-Mori pulled through smoothly. Captain Gallagher leaned back into his seat and looked over his two suborinates.

"Well…so far, so good," he told them.

Delaney checked his watch and shook his head.

"A lot can happen in four hours." he muttered to himself.

No sooner were the words uttered, when an unexpected jolt shook the ship. Carolyn, who was standing behind the Captain, immediately held on to one of the handles overhead before she was swung violently to the side. Warning lights blinked on the panels and a sound alarm filled the cockpit.

"The HELL was that?" Delaney yelled over the din.

"Your job to find out, Delaney," the Captain snapped, already flipping switches left and right.

Delaney combed the radar and zoomed in on the screen, while an unseen force continued to shake the ship.

"Fry!," Gallagher called over his shoulder.

"Captain," she answered, bracing herself between both pilot seats.

"I want you to head down to Deck C2 and check the tanks. I want you to search thoroughly for any leaks or caps that might've come undone. Do a run-up on the engine main drive and i.d. any low pressure ares on the ship."

"Right," she said before stumbling out the cockpit. The turbulence made it impossible for Fry to run down the hallway without stumbling several times. Somehow, she managed to make her way to C2. After quickly punching in the access code, the doors automatically swung open. She made a beeline for the tank containers and checked the gauges. Relief washed over her when the instruments showed nothing out of the ordinary. She walked over to the main controls and ran an impromptu sys check. It took a full monitor to display the results, all of which showed that no damages were sustained by the ship.

When the ship took another violent lurch, Fry slammed against the padded wall and was thrown to the floor. Groaning, she got up and staggered over to the door. Just as she reached the panel, the shaking suddenly stopped. Fry froze, as if expecting the ship to go into another round of seizures.

"Fry! Do you read me?", she heard.

Fry straightened and flicked on the commlink with one hand and absently punched in the code with the other.

"Here, Captain. Normal on the tanks. Pressure's up one level, but that isn't extraordinary in atmospheres like this."

"Good. I didn't think so, but we gotta cover all the bases."

"Everything's fine on this end. Looks like we're stable, sir?" she asked as she made her way down the narrow corridor back toward the cockpit

"We are. Seems we'd gone through a magnetic field that had been uncharted. Control tower informs me that it's part of some Federation procedure."

Fry breathed a sigh of relief.

"Well then that's good news, Captain. I'm on my..."

"Fry…", he interrupted, "hold on. You are down there at C2, right? While you're at it, I want you to check on the cargo deck."

Fry stopped in midstride and held her commlink away from her, staring at it like it had suddenly grown wings.

"Lt?" the commlink squawked.

"I'm sorry Captain. I seem to be getting some feedback. You told me to check where?" she asked, hoping she had just heard wrong.

"The cargo deck, Fry," he repeated with patience. "Now, I want you to check the restraints, just like how I had taught you and Delaney in training. The shaking probably didn't loosen them, but we can't be too certain."

Fry sighed. "Right," she said into the commlink, before spinning on her heels and heading for the lift.

"You can do this," she whispered to herself once inside, pressing B1 on the panel.

The doors opened to reveal a dimly lit corridor. She stepped out and walked over to the cargo deck. She was about to raise her hand to the sensor when she stopped and leaned her forehead against the cool, steel wall.

"You were gonna have to do this eventually, Carolyn. Now get a fucking grip."

She took a step back and a deep breath. Finally, she raised her right hand, and watched as the green laser ran up and down her palm.

------------------------------------------------------------

"Bloody hell," Hyde murmured, cranking his neck from side to side the best his neck grip allowed him. "A man can't even get a good sleep with all this shaking." Nevertheless, after a couple of rotations, he let his head drop to the side and went right back to sleep.

Towne nodded towards Riddick.

"Whaddaya suppose happened?" he asked.

Riddick didn't answer at first. He kept his head bowed down, like he was listening for something.

Towne held his breath, and cocked his own head to the side, straining his ears.

"Coulda been anything," Riddick finally said. "Coulda been a shower. An intercept. Systems malfunction." He looked directly at Towne and regarded him seriously. "Hundred ways to die in space."

Towne let out a bitter laugh.

"Got that right. If we're lucky, maybe a comet could blow us all up to kingdom come before they can get us to the Slam."

His words hung heavy in the air, as the thought floated in both their minds. Riddick shook the image out of his head. For him, getting there was NOT an option.

We've been afloat an hour, Riddick calculated. That gives me around four more hours to…

His thoughts were interrupted when the doors to the deck swished open and Fry stepped in.

------------------------------------------------------------

Fry had to squint when she first entered the room. It was brighter in the cargo deck than anywhere else on the ship. As soon as her eyes had adjusted to the stark lights, she surveyed the room. The 3 prisoners were strategically placed in three corners of the deck. In front of each man, a steel rod ran down from the ceiling to the floor. Their hands were chained together and attached to the pole. Their knees were slightly spread apart; ankles shackled and bolted to the floor. A longer chain connected the chains to their hands and the chains to their feet, making painless movement almost impossible.

Hyde was fast asleep; his head lolled to the side. Unbeknownst to her, Towne was watching her every move with a rakish grin on his face. Riddick's face she couldn't see from where she stood, the pole and his chained hands obstructing her view of him.

She walked up to Hyde and knelt down in front of him. She checked the magnetic lock that held the ankle chains together. She leaned lower and checked the bolts on the floor as well. From where she knelt, she looked up and observed his face. Once again, she noted how somewhat attractive he really was. A lock of hair had fallen across his forehead and she resisted the urge to brush it back. She got on her feet and checked the locks on the hands. Fry imagined all the noise and tugging would wake him at that point, but Hyde remained dead to the world.

She looked over at Towne and saw that he looked expectant, almost excited even. Fry grimaced, but made her way over to him anyway. She stooped down the check his restraints the way she had checked Hyde's.

"What do you say, baby? You, me, these chains right here. Sounds like fun to me," Towne told her.

Fry looked up at him and smiled sweetly. "Not if you were the last carbon-based creature in the galaxy."

"Playing coy, huh? That's alright, I like a challenge."

Fry tugged at the chains around his feet a little harder than necessary.

"Oh, yeah. I like it when you get rough."

Fry bit back a sharp retort. This sleazeball just wasn't worth the energy, she decided, straightening to her full height.

Riddick was next.

Avoiding eye contact, Fry got down on one knee and started to check his lower restraints. When she realized she was holding her breath, she let it out slowly. Head bent and working on the chains, she could feel his eyes on him. She was about to rise when she heard him speak up.

"Sure they're tight enough?"

She looked up and met a pair of piercing brown eyes staring right back at her. She had never heard him speak until now. His voice - it was like nothing she'd ever heard before. A baritone so deep and warm it seemed to touch something inside her.

"I checked," she told him tersely, ignoring the shiver she felt run up her spine.

"Might wanna check again", he said, amused now. "Wouldn't want us motherfuckers running around now, would you?"

"You ought to know that's not gonna happen", she tossed back.

Riddick just shrugged, but the corners of his mouth lifted in a crooked smile when he sensed her fight back the urge to check the chains again anyway.

She was about to reach for the chains on his wrists when Riddick suddenly jerked his arms back. The loud clanging noise the shackles made startled Fry, making her flinch. He had only twisted his hands around, revealing the lock that was previously buried underneath the chains. Fry's eyes flew to Riddick's, hoping he hadn't caught her jump.

Too late, she realized, as she noted that amused glint in his eyes return.

"I won't bite," he drawled.

Nervous laughter escaped Fry's lips, as she proceeded to tug at the chains on his wrist.

"Can't be TOO sure," she said casually, regaining her composure. She paused. "Especially if you're as dangerous as they say you are."

"And just how dangerous would that be ?"

She shrugged. "Just telling you what I hear."

Convinced that the restraints were secure, she took a step back. But instead of turning away and leaving the room, she stayed in place and studied him openly.

"Aren't you the least bit afraid?" she asked him.

Riddick arched an eyebrow. "Of you?"

Fry threw him a look. "Of being sent to the Slam."

He fixed her with his unwavering gaze.

"You should know that very little scares me."

Fry smirked.

Liar, she thought.

"Are you afraid?" he asked her.

Scared shitlless, she admitted to herself.

"No," she just said instead, a ghost of a smile playing on her lips.

A slow knowing smile spread on Riddick's face.

Liar, he thought.

"Oh for fuck's sake!", Towne exploded. Riddick and Fry looked over at him. Fry suddenly remembered where she was and who she was talking to. Meanwhile, Riddick was giving Towne a look that clearly told him to fuck off.

Fry quickly wiped the smile off her face and took opportunity to make a hasty exit. Riddick turned back to see Fry slip out between the deck's sliding doors.

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As soon as the doors thudded shut behind her, Fry strode stiffly down the dim corridor.

"Fry," the communit squawked. "Problems?"

Fry flicked on the switch almost impatiently.

"No, Captain. I just passed by the… erm, engine room to, uh, check on the turbines."

She bit her tongue. Fry hated to lie to the Captain, but anything was better than the truth. What was she supposed to say? That she had a little chat with one of the convicts. Right.

"Not gonna happen again," she admonished herself.

Before heading for the cockpit, she made a quick stop at the lavatory. Once inside, she splashed cold water on her face. She straightened up and took a long hard look at her reflection. This mission was turning out to be trickier than she thought.

All this fucking mindplay, she thought, running her wet fingers through her dirty-blonde hair.

------------------------------------------------------------

It had been three hours since the ship had left the Orion. Gallagher allowed Delaney and Fry to spend a few minutes in the mess hall for a break. Fry watched as Delaney prepared himself a meal. She took one glance at what suspiciously looked like green oatmeal before deciding she wasn't hungry after all. So she rested her head on her folded arms and closed her eyes.

"What was it like," Delaney asked between mouthfuls.

"What was what like?" she asked absently, her voice muffled by her arms.

"Up there. With the prisoners."

"It was fine," she said after a while.

Delaney laughed.

"What?" Fry asked innocently, finally looking up at him.

He leaned forward and narrowed his eyes at her. "C'mon, Carolyn. Captain's not around. You can level with me."

"I am leveling with you. Sure it WAS terrifying, you know," she paused, shrugging, "I guess you just cowboy up. Do your job."

"And what a job it is," he said.

Fry was about to lay her head back down when she heard him speak up again.

"Can't wait to get this mission done with, if you ask me."

A vision of Riddick flashed in Carolyn's head.

You and me both, Delaney, she thought.

"Well, we're on Captain Gallagher's time," she said instead. "You can't beat that. He can handle anything in case you've forgotten."

As if the mere mention of his name had the power to conjure him, the door to the mess hall swung open and Gallagher's head popped in.

"Listen up. We're going through Tantro VII in a minute," he informed them.

Fry stood up quickly. "The asteroid belt," she said aloud.

The Captain nodded. "Need a couple more hands for this," he amended, before disappearing down the hall. Fry had already shrugged into her suit and quickly followed the captain. Delaney wolfed down the rest of his food, when Gallagher yelled from the corridor.

"Tick, tick!" he boomed.

"I'm there, Captain," he yelled back, hurriedly zipping up and darting out the room.

When he arrived in the cockpit, Fry was already strapped in and punching in a sequence of buttons on the board above her.

Gallagher looked at him over his shoulder.

"It's 1100, Delaney. Time for the routine check on the cargo. You're up."

Fry darted a quick glance at Delaney and saw his face drain completely of color at the captain's orders.

"Lt. Delaney?" Gallagher asked.

"Sir," he croaked.

"Well, what the hell are you still doing back there," he growled. "Move!"

Delaney turned to Fry wordlessly and she nodded encouragingly.

"Yes, Captain," he said slowly, grudgingly stepping out the cockpit.

"Back to work, Fry," Gallagher snapped.

"Yessir," she replied, tearing her gaze away from Delaney's retreating figure and back to the controls.

------------------------------------------------------------

Riddick turned to the two other prisoners. Towne was wide awake now, and for once, Hyde was perfectly still and quiet. Both were looking back at him. It was 1100. It should happen any minute.

Riddick swung his gaze to the doors of the cargo deck.

Here we go, he told himself.

He felt the familiar sensation of his adrenaline running; of the blood pounding in his ears. It was always this way for him, and he loved it.

Riddick closed his eyes, breathed in deeply, and waited.

------------------------------------------------------------

It had been 23 minutes since the Captain had sent Delaney to check on the prisoners. Gallagher and Fry had successfully maneuvered the ship through the asteroid belt safely. It was going to be clear open space for the rest of the trip. Fry tried not to notice how impatient the Captain was getting waiting for the other lieutenant.

"The hell could be taking him so long?" he muttered. "Left his damn commlink behind too."

Fry cleared her throat and shifted in her seat.

"Probably checked on the engine room as well. He could be on his way back as we speak," she answered optimistically.

Gallagher didn't answer.

"I can go check, Captain," she said quietly.

Just then, a light on the control panel blinked, indicating that an open communication line was being patched through from the control tower at The Slam. Gallagher pushed a button and a gruff voice filled the confines of the cockpit.

"This is Control Tower 3 to the Memento-Mori transport ship. Do you read me?"

Gallagher was about to reply, his finger already on the button, when he distractedly turned to Fry.

"You do that, Lt. I'm going to take this."

"Yes, Captain."

------------------------------------------------------------

Trust Delaney to screw up at a time like this, Fry thought, marching down the corridor that led to the cargo deck.

She was about to raise her hand to the sensor when she thought she heard something from behind her. Fry spun around. She squinted through the dimness, and tried to make out anything from out of the shadows.

"Delaney? You out here?"

Nothing.

"Okay, Delaney. Joke's over."

Still nothing.

"Next time, stick to commercial transport," she muttered to herself, turning back to the doors cargo deck.

Placing her palm against the cold surface of the sensor, she looked up to see the words ACCESS GRANTED flash across the screen above her head.

The doors hadn't even opened all the way , when a hand shot out, grabbed her by the wrist and yanked her in. Fry yelped as she stumbled into the room and slammed into something hard, before the doors hissed close behind her. She looked up, surprised and breathless.

Riddick.

With a vice-like grip on her arm, he smiled down at her flushed face.

"Glad you could join the party."

Fry's eyes widened in disbelief as loud sirens rang echoed her head. She twisted around in Riddick's grip, quickly surveying the room. The chairs were empty and all the chains were unlocked and discarded on the metal floor. In one corner was Delaney, bound by the very restraints used on the prisoners and silenced by a rag jammed in his mouth. His eyes were bloodshot and red liquid trickled down the side of his head. The rest of the room became a dizzying blur in Fry's mind.

This is not happening, Fry thought dazedly. This is not happening.

Still holding on to her arm, Riddick bent his head down to hers.

"Told you to check the chains," he said, his breath stirring his hair.

It was only when Fry finally looked up at him that her instincts finally kicked in. Her hand flew to her utility belt, about to draw her handgun. She fumbled around until she realized her holster was empty.

When had he disarmed me, she thought frantically, staring at him.

Anger mixed with fear welled up inside her when she saw the corners of his mouth lift in a sardonic smile. Fry pulled back her free arm and swung at him, but Riddick's reflexes were a hundred times faster. He easily caught his fist in one big hand and gripped it. Holding on to both her wrists, he spun her around and locked her arms behind her in a second. He pulled her to him, forcing her back against his entire length. When she struggled, he leaned down and spoke against her ear.

"Now, Carolyn. You wouldn't want to get hurt like your crewmate here, would you?"

Fry's glanced upon Delaney and took in his wide and terror-stricken eyes; his cries muffled by the rag stuffed in his mouth. She watched as Hyde searched through Delaney's pockets, while Towne stood over both of them. Towne nudged Delaney's head with the gauge, ordering him to pipe down.

Shitshitshitshitshit...

Fry couldn't get the words out of her head. She renewed her struggle against Riddick's stronghold, but he held her firmly with no trouble at all.

"Let me go," she hissed, part demand and part plea. She tried wrenching her wrists free until the muscles on her arms stood out, but his hold was steadfast. Towne watched both of them and frowned. He walked towards Fry, his eyes raking over her body. He made a show of licking his lips as he approached. Fry stilled and held her breath. She winced slightly when she felt Riddick's grip on her wrists tighten. Towne was just inches away, still not touching her.

"That's right, Riddick my man," he said. "You just hold on to her tight for me there."

He lifted his finger and caressed the side of her face. Fry jerked her head back, disgusted by even the slightest of his touch. Towne just snorted and started to slowly trail his finger down her neck to her chest, as Fry squirmed in Riddick's grasp. Just when Towne's finger was about to dip into the V of her top, Riddick spun Fry around and away from Towne. A befuddled Townd was left staring after Riddic's back, his finger still poised in midair. Riddick dragged a very relieved Fry to one corner of the cargo room.

"Hey!" Towne yelled after them. "I was just about to..."

Riddick stopped in his tracks and glared at him over his shoulder. He didn't like the message, but he got it loud and clear. The frustrated convict turned back to Delaney and Hyde, cursing under his breath.

Riddick abruptly released Fry's wrists, causing her to stumble forward.

"Sit down," he ordered her, pointing to a steel bench screwed to the wall.

Fry's first thought was to try and hit him again. Or to go into a kicking and screaming fit. Whatever. Just to do *something* other than sit at his command. But she could tell that anything she could think to do would be futile, and would likely just drain the energy she knew she'd need. She was trapped in the room with three criminals with a mission, and Delaney was clearly not going to be of any help in the state he was in. So she sat her ass down. And as soon as she did, she spotted her handgun on the floor not a few feet away. Now if she could just scoot a little bit to her...

"I don't think so," Riddick told her, walking over to where the gun lay and kicking it way out of her reach.

*Bastard.*

"Think about behaving like the good girl you are," he told her, jerking his head toward Delaney. "You have your friend to think about."

Towne pointed the gauge at the lieutenant's head, pretended to squeeze the trigger and laughed wildly. Delaney looked about ready to faint.

Fry spoke up, a slight tremor to her voice.

"Go ahead."

All four men turned to her. Delaney's eyes widened at Fry's words and he shook his head furiously from side to side.

"Relax Delaney. They need us," she told him, although she wasn't sure yet what for. "They're not going to kill us."

"Not yet, you mean," Hyde clarified in a clipped British accent. He walked over to one side of the cargo room. He ran his fingertips against the wall, as if feeling for something. When his hand stopped its search, he brought his fist to thump on one section of the wall. A hidden panel swung open, revealing an access pad.

Hyde turned back to her, a gleam in his eye.

"How'd you find out about that ?" Fry honestly wanted to know. That the supply hatch could be accessed through the room via a hidden panel was something known only by the crew.

"You underestimate me, Lt. Fry. I served aboard a transport ship very similar to this as my cover. Before my time at the Orion. My 2nd biggest heist, if I remember correctly" he added proudly. He looked into the distance wistfully for a moment, then caught himself.

"This is where *you* come in. We need the access codes to the hatch."

The artillery, Fry realized. Of course.

"And this fool," Towne piped up, nudging Delaney's head with the gauge, "won't give it to us."

Fry breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that Delaney had the good sense to stick to his guns.

"Well you're sure as hell not going to get it from me," she told them.

Towne grinned. "We have ways of making you talk," he said, wagging his eyebrows at her.

"And why *should* we talk? As soon as we give you what you want, you're going to kill us anyway, right?"

Riddick chuckled mirthlessly. "Yes, but there's *dying*... and there's dying a very slow and painful death. Your call."

Fry stared hard at the floor and resisted the urge to go ballistic. Just give it to them, a voice in her head screamed at her. You wanna be tortured? You wanna have to feel the life oozing out of your bloodied and beaten body?

She shook her head, as if clearing those thoughts away.

Shut up! Do what's right, Fry, she commanded herself. Do your goddamned job!

Finally, she looked right into Riddick's eyes.

"You're just going to have to find some other way then. Because you're not. Getting it. From me."

"Brave words from a stupid woman," Hyde announced. "In a minute, you'll be regretting them."

"In the meantime..." Riddick interrupted, picking up Delaney's discarded commlink from the floor and holding it out to Fry.

"What," she asked, pretending not to understand.

"Call your captain. Tell him you have your hands full, but that everything's fine."

Resentment bubbled up inside Fry. "If you think," she said through clenched teeth, "for one moment, that I will be a part of..."

"Listen," Riddick cut in harshly. "Seems to me like you've got no other choice. Any way you want to play this, we *will* get what we want."

She stared at him, pausing a second to weigh the situation. Would it be wiser to play by their rules, even for a while? Maybe it could buy them all some time and just maybe even give them a shot at survival. Whereas if she resisted this early in the game, she was apt to get her head blown off. I'll play along, she thought, if only to give us some chance.

Decision made, she grudgingly snatched the commlink from Riddick.

"Smart move."

Fry flicked the switch, not taking her eyes off Riddick. "Captain. Lt. Fry here. Do you read me?"

Silence from the other end. Fry tried again.

"Captain. This is Lt. Fry, do you read me?"

A burst of static filled the room.

"Fry! Where the hell are you? You find Delaney?"

"He's right here with me, Captain," she informed him. "There seems to be a leak at Level 2. He and I are checking it our right now."

"A leak? I don't see any sign of a leak on our scanner here. I'm lookin' at it right now."

Fry all but wanted to yell - There *is* no leak, Captain! They're going to kill us! You've got to come quick! - but she didn't. What she would give to have some sort of telepathic ability; to let the Captain know of the kind of dangerous and complicated situation they were in.

"Is that right? Well, it's possible that the turbulence earlier might have screwed up with the sensors. I think it's safest if Delaney and I check it out. It won't take long. Permission to stay for a few minutes longer, sir?"

When Gallagher didn't answer right away, she felt everyone in the cargo hold their breaths.

"Captain," Fry rasped into the commlink.

"Carry on, Lieutenant."

Click.

Fry's clicked the commlink off and hurled it against the wall as an act of defiance. She leaned forward to rest her elbows on her knees and covered her face with her hands.

Terrific, she thought. My first transport mission and it's all going to hell.

"This is bullshit," Towned piped up. "I don't understand why we can't just storm into the cockpit and take over. There's three of us, and as soon as we waste these two, there's only goin' to be him. I mean, how hard could that be?" He looked to his companions for agreement.

"Because, you dimwit," Hyde explained, as if to a five-year-old. "there are space stations everywhere and as soon as the Captain catches the slightest whiff or trouble, it'll only take one press of the shiny red button by him before the cops are all over this stinking ship."

"That, and you've obviously never heard of Gallagher," added Riddick.

"So. Where were we?" Hyde asked, rubbing his hands. "I believe Lt. Fry here was about to tell us something? "

Fry glared at him. "Why don't you kiss my ass?"

"Why don't I kill your crewmate?"

"That's supposed to scare me?" she bluffed.

Delaney thrashed about, but the rag muffled his words.

Towne gripped Delaney's head and took out the cloth. "What's that," he asked.

"...2231013!!," Delaney gasped. "Justdontkillmepleasedontkileeme..."

"Dammit, Delaney," Fry yelled, getting on her feet. "Fuck!"

Riddick placed a hand on her shoulder and pushed her back down.

Hyde bent down and patted Delaney's mottled hair. "Good chap. Knew we could count on you." He nodded at Towne. "Kill him."

"Hey," Delaney broke in. "Wait just a goddamned minute..."

Towne tossed Hyde the gauge. "Here. You've got first dibs."

Hyde held the gun with distaste and shoved it back to him. "Thanks, but no thanks. I'm a thief, not a murderer."

Towne shrugged and pointed the gauge at Delaney's temple.

"Look! I can help you!" Delaney was going into hysterics with his pleading. "Just give me a cha-"

"Don't think so," Towne murmured, pulling the trigger. A muffled blast filled the room. And then silence.

------------------------------------------------------------

Riddick watched the murder before him with only mild amusement. Frankly, he had been itching to just slit all their throats and fly the damned ship himself; but he knew that scenario wasn't as easy as it sounded, or even half as wise. He figured he had a better chance if he waited 'till the very last minute before completely screwing them over. Plus, it didn't hurt to have them do most of the work for him, without them even knowing it. So in the meantime, Mr. Richard B. Riddick was going to be a team player. He glanced at Fry, and saw that she had her head bowed low; her blonde hair shielding her face. He wondered if she witnessed her friend's execution. He noticed that her hands were gripping the edge of the steel bench so tightly her knuckles were turning white. A drop of moisture fell on the back of one of her hands and Riddick wondered if it was from her sweat or her tears. He waited, fighting the urge to come over and tilt her chin up.

"I'd really appreciate some help here," he heard from Hyde. He tore his gaze away from Fry. Towne and Hyde had already raided the hatch of all the artillery and were on the floor assembling them - or at least trying to. Riddick sighed; it was his luck he was transported with a pair of criminals inept at ammunitions. He hesitated before walking over to the two, wondering if it was wise to leave Fry unrestrained. She definitely had balls, that was for sure. Which was more than he could say for her squealing co-pilot. He looked back at her and interpreted her still bowed head and silence as a sign of surrender. Riddick surmised she wouldn't cause too much trouble. He went over to Hyde and Towne and on bended knee, began picking up pieces and putting parts together with a deftness and efficiency borne out of training and experience. Hdye watched Riddick's swift hands and made an attempt to mimic them.

"Aw hell," Towne grumbled, throwing the parts he held to the ground and standing up to wander off.

"Where'd you learn to assemble like that," Hyde asked, clearly impressed.

Riddick's brows creased in concentration, her hands never stopping for a second. He glanced quickly at him and scowled.

"You wanna save the small talk 'till after?"

Hyde raised his hands in a backing-off gesture. "Fine by me."

Riddick was about to load the last bullet in the gauge when he heard scuffling from behind him. He twisted around to check on what Towne could be up to this time. Fry was now up and out of the bench. Towne had her pressed against the wall. One hand leaned against the wall above her head, the other held her handgun pointed at her side. She had her face averted and her eyes screwed shut. Both of her hands were against his chest, trying to push him away. Towne was apparently much stronger than he looked. When he leaned down and sniffed her neck, Fry squirmed and her hands strained harder against his chest. This only served to enflame him, as he dug the gun deeper into her side as a reminder.

"Just kill me," she ordered him. "Pull the fucking trigger."

"Oh no," he answered, with a chuckle. "Don't think I'm going to let you off that easily. I like my girls kicking and screaming."

"Towne," Riddick warned.

"Be with you in a minute, man," he answered distractedly. He nudged her legs apart with his knee and placed his leg in between hers.

Another warning came from Riddick. "Towne."

Exasperated, Towne finally stepped back a little from Fry and turned his head.

"What?!?!"

"We're wasting time."

"Says who," Towne countered, "This won't take long. Don't worry, you fellas can have a go at her when I'm done." Then he winked at Riddick and Hyde.

Fry took advantage of the distraction Riddick had inadvertently provided. Bracing herself against the wall, she jerked her thigh up sharply, her knee making solid contact with Towne's groin. Both Riddick and Hyde winced, as Towned howled in pain.

"You stupid cunt," he spat out, doubled over.

Fry remained pressed against the wall, looking down at him.

"You touch me again, you better kill me," she told him angrily. Riddick could tell from her body language that she was thinking about kicking him in the head while he was down, but she glanced up at him and Hyde and wisely decided not to. Straightening up, Towne lunged towards Fry and grabbed her hair. Fry yelped when he yanked her head back hard. He reared back and gave her a hard backhanded slap across the face.

"Oh, I will. Little bitch."

"Get your filthy hands off me!"

"Or what, huh, tough girl?," he taunted.

"Or I'm blowing your fucking head off," Riddick's deep voice said from behind him.

Towne went still for a moment before turning around slowly. He found himself looking down the barrel of a very large gauge.

"You're shitting me, right?" he asked. Riddick simply stared at him over the gauge.

From where he stood, Riddick could see Fry standing motionless behind Towne, looking partly puzzled and partly relieved by Riddick's interference.

Riddick cocked the hammer. "We'll deal with her later. *You* will leave her alone."

Towne snorted. "You pull that trigger, and the blast will send the Captain running. Then it's game over, man." he told him. "Say hello to the Slam."

Without his aim waivering the slightest, Riddick attached something he had been holding in his other hand to the gauge. "You really are a moron."

A look of fear passed over Towne's features, only to be quickly replaced by anger and incredulity.

"What, have you gone sweet on her or something? Is that it?"

"This has nothing to do with her," he answered him. "And everything to do with what we had planned."

"Who made *you* chairman of the board ? You can take your plan and shove it up where the sun don't shine," he said before turning away from him to face Fry again.

In the blink of an eye, Riddick grabbed Towne's neck and shoved him up against the wall beside Fry. He pinned him there with the gauge pressed against the back of his head. Towne's face hit the wall so hard, Riddick was pretty sure he broke a cheekbone at the very least.

"Funny, I thought you said you didn't *want* to reach the Slam," Riddick said, punctuating his words by hitting his face against the wall a couple more times.

A strangled moan escaped Towne's lips. His hands clawed helplessly at the wall as Riddick's hold on his neck was seriously cutting off the oxygen supply to his brain.

"I don't, man, I don't..." he croaked.

"Wish granted," Riddick told him, then squeezed the trigger. Towne's head exploded mere inches from Fry's; his blood and brains splattering on her.

"Ohmygod!" Fry exclaimed, completely horrified. She had her hand to her mouth, but couldn't manage to shut herself up. "Ohmygod...ohymygod..."

Riddick released his neck and Towne's lifeless body slowly sagged against the wall before it finally slumped to the floor. He picked up the handgun and fixed Fry with his stare.

"And you - you'll know better than to try anything stupid. I am *not* fucking around," he told her.

Fry stood immobilized, a look of horror still in her eyes and clearly directed at Riddick. He knew that look very well; the one that couldn't imagine how a human being could kill with such impunity. He'd received similar looks from hundreds of others more times than he'd care to count. He never really careda about how others saw him or what they thought of him. He'd become immune to their judgmental stares. But this time - it was as if he couldn't bear to see Fry looking at him that same way. So he turned away from her and walked over to Hyde.

"Good riddance," Hyde said aloud. "That useless shithead was starting to annoy me anyway."

"Time to lock and load," Riddick told him, picking up the rest of the ammunition.

"Right," Hyde said. He swung his gauge over his shoulder and gestured towards Fry. "What about the girl?"

"Think now's the time for you to get rid of her."

Riddick paused for a second, looking at Fry.

"It is," he finally said. He lifted the freshly loaded gauge at shoulder-height and aimed it at her. He had his finger on the trigger, but still did not pull. Hyde watched him closely.

"Do it," he ordered him. "Do it so we can get out of here."

"Oh, I will," he told him, his eyes still locked on Fry. "Just got to take care of something first."

Hyde looked around him. "What's that?"

Riddick slowly turned his head to meet his gaze, then swung the gauge towards him. He lowered it slightly so that the barrell was pointing at Hyde's chest.

"You," he told him, before blowing him away. The impact of the shot sent Hyde flying across the room. He hit the far wall and landed in a boneless heap not far from Delaney's body. Riddick walked over and divested him of his gauge and other weapons. "I never was good at taking directions."

------------------------------------------------------------

At this point, Fry had moved away from the wall, putting some distance between her and Towne's remains. For her, this was just too much in too short a time. Any thoughts of getting out alive flew out of her head the moment they had wasted Delaney. As for Towne's death... she hated the fucker and was glad he was dead, but he had been killed right there, right beside her. He had his blood and who-knows-what-else on her. How could things have gone so wrong so quickly? It was all just too much, she repeated to herself.

Too much.

Too much.

TOO. MUCH.

"Carolyn." Riddick's deep voice permeated through the fog in her head. Fry hugged herself like she was cold and looked around her. At the bloodstained walls. At the bodies which limbs were twisted at painful angles. At all the artillery that lay on the floor nearby. She could pick up a gun right now and put a bullet in Riddick's head.

She could. Maybe if she was quick enough.

But she wasn't.

And she was tired.

And it was all just too much.

So she let her hands fall to her sides, and raised her head.

"Carolyn," he repeated, as if trying to snap her out of a reverie. Fry couldn't help but feel like he was trying to calm her down.

Much to her amazement, she found that she *was* calming down. She hadn't exhibited any outward sign of panic, but in her head just a few minutes ago, she was breaking down.

But now, with Riddick taking slow deliberate steps towards her, she felt everything go out of focus. The rest of the room spun away and all she saw and felt was *this* moment.

"You knew this was coming," Riddick said, now standing within arm's reach from her.

Fry said nothing. She was surrendering to her fate, and a sense of peace came with the acceptance that this was how her story ended.

So this is how it feels to have death staring you in the face, she thought hazily.

Her life didn't flash before her eyes. She just a lightness and stillness that surprised even herself. She felt together. She had that much, atleast, before she died. She didn't give them what they wanted, and she wasn't about to beg for her life. Fry tried to focus on Riddick standing in front of her. He lifted the gauge and brought the end ot the barrel against her chest. Fry slightly shifted her weight, leaning into it. It would go straight to the heart, and maybe she won't feel a thing.

"I'm sorry," Riddick rasped, looking into her eyes.

Fry looked into his for a moment, before nodding sadly.

"So am I."

Fry closed her eyes.

And waited for her quiet world to explode.

------------------------------------------------------------

Oh dear God, Fry's mind implored. Please don't let this hurt.

Her body wound up so tight, it felt like a rubber band stretched to its snapping point. All she wanted was for this to be done and over with. With as little pain as possible

It should happen any second now.

Any second.

Now.

But there was no deafening explosion; no sharp pain in her chest. Instead, she heard something clatter to the floor a split second before she felt a force knock her over backward. Fry grunted as she hit the ground. Her eyes flew open and saw that it was Riddick who crashed into her. He was sprawled over her, unconscious. His weight made it difficult for her to breathe so she had to use what was left of her strength to push him off. With Riddick out of the way, she saw the Captain armed with a phaser, standing over them. She had to force her pupils to focus on his concerned face. Still on her back, Fry placed a hand on her forehead. Her breathing was ragged and her skin sheen with sweat.

"You alright, Lt?" he asked her calmly, picking up Riddick's gauge from the floor.

"Fine, " she wheezed.

Gallagher leaned down and extended a hand to help her sit up. Fry drew her knees up towards her chest and held her head in her hands like she had a terrible headache. For the nth time that day, she felt tears threaten to flow. She heard the Captain mutter something before softly walking out the room, presumably give her some time alone to pull herself together. As soon as she got a grip, Fry raised her head and surveyed the room. The three prisoners were down on the ground; two of them virtually unrecognizable. Blood pooled on the floor and some other unidentified matter dripped down the walls. It had been a gruesome bloodbath.

And right beside her was Riddick, spread-eagled on his back.

Without warning, the room started to spin and the lights began to dance in front of Fry's eyes. Everything she looked at seemed to be the color of blood-red. Slowly, she lay back down on the ground to wait for the dizzy spells to subside. Flat on her back once again, she blinked against the stark lights overhead. And as she did, hot tears spilled down the side of her face and vanished into her matted hair.

------------------------------------------------------------

Riddick stood still in the cryolocker; his hands bound and his neck clasped in a steel grip. There was a blindfold over his eyes and a metal bit in his mouth as well. Though he had been confined well over 30 minutes, sleep was the furthest thing on his mind.

Son of a bitch is takin' me to the Slam after all, he thought wryly.

He didn't suppose there was a way out of THIS one. He mentally berated himself for not having sensed the Captain sneak up on him. He didn't even hear the goddamned doors to the skiff open.

Score one for God, he thought bitterly. And for that, he had to admit he felt some kind of respect for Gallagher. In the Captain Riddick found a somewhat worthy adversary.

Everything had been going well too, but he hesitated. What if he just shot them all earlier? What if he didn't….

Riddick cleared his mind. It wasn't like him to dabble over what-if's or maybe's. Fuck that and move on. And never make the same mistake again. One thing was for sure, and that was vow to learn never to be blindsided. Never again. Even if it meant he had to find a way to see in the fuckin' dark. He supposed he could even pick up some tricks in the Slam; might as well learn something while he was in there. Because he promised himself he was never going to be locked up very long. Another opportunity was going to come his way, of that he was certain. And that next time, he was going to be more ready than he has ever been in his entire life. No hitches, no distractions.

Distractions. Carolyn Fry.

That second of restraint on his part certainly cost him his freedom. Women never caused him problems before. Not even beautiful, gutsy, skillful women like Carolyn. Usually, it was the other way around. What is it about her that…

Riddick clenched his fists, causing his wrists to ache in protest against the cold chains Gallagher had bound him so tightly in.

Never again, he promised himself.

------------------------------------------------------------

Fry sat in the mass hall alone. A blanket was draped over her shoulders and her hands were wrapped around a canister of hot beverage. Fry insisted that she was still fit to complete the mission, but the Captain would have none of it. He commanded her to recoup in the hall, but gave his word that he'd summon her when he needed help.

As for the bodies in the cargo room… Gallagher allowed her to help him drag them off to one corner, but suggested that they clean up everything else after they reached the Slam. However, he ordered Fry out of the room when he was about to place Riddick in cryolock.

It was a little humid in the room and the blanket was at least an inch thick, but Fry shivered nonetheless. She hugged herself but resisted the urge to rock back and forth in her seat. Her near-death experience definitely gave her a new perspective. She felt that she had been given new lease on life, and she'd be damned if she ever let go of it without a fight.

From this moment on, it's save your own ass, she told herself.

From the corner of her eye, she saw the plate that Delaney had been eating that weird porridge from earlier. She turned away and willed the image of his murdered co-pilot out of her head.

After some thought, she shrugged the blanket off and stood. Fry left the room and headed for the cargo deck once more.

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Standing in front of the steel doors, Fry felt a sense of déjà vu wash over her. She looked down the hall to make sure the Captain was nowhere in sight. Slipping inside, she noticed that he had turned down the lights earlier, probably to hide the blood stains that they hadn't cleaned up yet. It was so dim in the room that the only true source of luminescence came from the overhead light in Riddick's cryolocker. With Riddick's head upturned slightly to the light, his chiseled features were highlighted. Chained and locked away, he did not seem any less menacing to Fy. In fact, the chains, bit and blindfold just emphasized how dangerous this man could be.

She took one, then two steps toward the cryolocker. She moved slowly and quietly, as if afraid to wake him up and have him find her watching him.

He's out cold, for crying out loud, she scolded herself. Again, she marveled at how she could have possibly survived the ordeal than went down not one hour ago.

Thank God he hesitated, she thought. That one second was all the time Captain needed to save my life.

You saved my life too, she remembered, raising her hand to the cold glass. What is it about you that…

Just then, Riddick's head cocked to the side, towards her hand.

Fry gasped and stepped back. The movement was slight but unmistakable just the same. If it weren't for the blindfolds, she could swear he was looking straight at her right now.

"That's impossible," she whispered. The first five seconds of cryogas is sure to knock someone out, she rationalized.

Fry waited and watched carefully, but Riddick never moved a muscle again. But something told her that Riddick was awake.

Did he know she was right there, watching him? She wondered.

------------------------------------------------------------

6 years later.

"Heads up, Fry!" Owen yelled.

Fry jerked her head up just in time to see a clipboard hurling towards her face. She ducked and heard Owen's raucous laughter. She snatched the clipboard from the floor and gave Owens her best evil eye. He merely gave her a wicked grin. Fry couldn't help the smile that crept up on her face. She could never stay mad at Owens, and he knew it. Over the years, she'd built a close relationship with his crewmates. Owens could be naughty sometimes, but when it was time to work, he was as responsible and hardworking as the day was long. She relied on him and he on her during the missions.

"One of these days, Owens," she warned him good-naturedly, "you'll get yours."

She settled in back in her chair and flipped through the papers clipped together on the board.

"And this is?"

"Passenger list, Fry," he answered, twiddling some controls from where he sat. "Hold on to it for me while I check the gates. I'd hate to lose it."

"Like you did the last time, you mean."

It was Owens' turn to give her the evil eye.

"Found it again that time, didn't I?"

"After an hour you did," she reminded him, shaking her head.

"Yeah, yeah," he finally conceded, giving her a lopsided smile.

Fry turned her attention the clipboard in her hand.

"Anyone we know?" she asked him, running her index finger down the list.

"Don't think so," he told her. "Unless you count that guy who was hitting on you during boarding a while ago."

She raised an eyebrow.

"What guy?"

Owens stared at her like maybe she was just pulling his leg.

"Tall, blonde, blue-eyed? Looked like a cop? Do not tell me you didn't notice him checking you out. I'm a guy; I know these things."

Fry simple waved him off, and ran through the names listed to see if she knew anyone. She made out some vaguely familiar names, a couple of celebrities, a handful of Muslim names… She was about to flip to the next page when a name caught her attention.

Fry sat up in her seat and blinked a couple of times at the page.

Passenger 83. Richard B. Riddick -- Maximum Security Cryolock

No, she whispered.

She stared off into space, barely noticing the clipboard slip from her numb fingers and fall to the floor.

It's been 10 years. 10 years she tried to forget that name. 10 years she struggled to shove the memory of those men to the back of her subconscious. And she had succeeded.

But now… here at the ship. The sight of his name instantly caused the memory of that fateful night to flood over her.

Fry jumped when she felt Owen's hand on her shoulder.

"Fry," he asked carefully. "What is it?"

She looked up into his kind face.

"Nothing," she said faintly. "Just that the past has a funny way of sneaking up on you."

Owens looked at her quizzically.

"What do you mean?"

Fry forced a smile, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. She didn't want Owens to worry, and she most certainly didn't want to tell him about the experience she tried to forget about.

"Just babbling, I guess."

He didn't look satisfied with her answer and continued to watch her. Nevertheless, she just stood and handed him back the clipboard.

"I'll let you finish up in here," she told him before quickly leaving the room, leaving a befuddled Owens staring after her.

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Fry stood in the middle of the cargo room. All but three cryolockers were occupied and secured; hers, the Captains and Owen's. The Captain and Owns were doing a last-minute sys check. As the docking pilot, it was her job to make sure that all passengers were secure.

Standing in front of one particular cryo locker under maximum security, Fry felt a surge of déjà vu wash over her.

So we meet again, she said silently.

For the most part, he looked as she remembered him. There were some differences; he was more muscular and darker. Probably from the hard work he was subjected to in The Slam.

Judking form the kind of restraints he was placed in, she could only guess he had become meaner as well.

Like she had done so many years ago, she lifted her hand to the cold glass.

I know you're not asleep, she thought.

She waited for a beat but Riddick's body remained stock-still. Fry couldn't help but think that Riddick being in the same ship was a bad omen. She could only hope that she was wrong.

When she heard footfalls behind her, she quickly dropped her hand to her side.

"You all set, Fry?" Owens asked her.

"Yeah," she answered casually, turning to him.

His gaze flickered over to the cryolocker.

"Someone you know?"

Fry took a second to glance at Riddick then back at Owens.

"Uh, no," she said. "I thought it was… but I was wrong."

"We better get going then."

"Sure," she answered, but didn't make a move to leave the deck.

Owens reached out and clasped her arm with a warm hand.

"You okay, Fry? Got the pre-flight jitters?"

Fry shrugged and gave him an apologetic smile.

"Yeah. I guess that's what it is."

He squeezed her arm reassuringly before maneuvering them both out and into the hallway. Fry let herself be led away from the passenger deck, but allowed herself one quick glance at Riddick before he completely disappeared from her view.

"Don't worry," he told her. "Everything's going to be fine. You'll see."

 

THE END

 

 
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