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Elizabeth sucked in a deep breath of the stale, recycled air and fidgeted as she waited for the sweating man behind the tiny desk placated some superior on a trivial matter. 'A matter that would probably lose him his job, knowing how things work in this place', she thought to herself.

She uncrossed and crossed her legs again, sniffing and scratching her nose, running her tongue over her teeth, wincing at the fuzz she found there. She seethed inwardly. 'Come on! I've got work to do, you little man with you little desk and you little importance and your highly commented on 'little dick' oh fer pity's sake just tell the wanker to go fuck himself while hanging out the nearest airlock! Grow some balls boyo!'

She rocked her foot back and forth to the rattle of the air recycler as he glanced at her once, his eyes begging for her patience. At least he acknowledges you in some way girly, okay take back the 'little dick' remark...he does have kids to feed. Finally the pretentious weenie on the other end of the line hung up and 'little' man finally looked her way. "So terribly sorry to have kept you waiting. Upper management..." he piped rolling his eyes.

She gave the obligatory, non-committal nod and kept quiet. He then sighed in such a way that made her very worried for a moment. She held up her hand to stop his tirade. Rumors had been circulating for a month. "I'm fired aren't I?" She stated in a fashion more calmly than she actually felt.

His eyes focused on the family portrait that dominated the left side of his desk (it's a really small desk). "Um...yes..." He kept his eyes firmly away from hers. "Oh." "Yes well ummmm...we are downsizing all divisions on all stations. You will be compensated of course, but you will have to leave the station or start paying rent."

She sat there, watching him recite something she suspected had been recited more than a dozen times today. She waited until he was finished before she removed her company dog tags and stood. She didn't have to wait for permission to leave. And as she walked out the door she realised for the first time in a long time - she was free.

 

*********

 

Three days after being fired, Elizabeth gently patted the shiny skin of 'The Little Pig'. Now that would sound strange, if I failed to mention that she was in a large 'dry-dock' hanger that contained about 12 ships, all of which were in some stage of repair or state of deconstruction.

Not that long ago, 'The Little Pig' had been a derelict junker floating dead in space. Retrieved by a salvage crew and purchased for a reasonable price by Elizabeth with her hard-earned dough, then lovingly repaired by her own two hands, perhaps a week away from finished. She had spent most of the day emptying her former apartment on the station.

Hefting what looked like a major engine part up the ramp, she almost laughed at the amount of crap she'd accumulated in the short time she had actually _been_ on the station.

Three medium sized freighters had broken down in the week prior to her unemployment and dragging power cells- some weighing around fifty kilos or more - back and forward all the time had started out being a pain in the back.

Her newer, sleeker form from all that working out made moving everything into her new so much easier. She strutted down the ramp and reached for the last box of junk. She paused and sat down instead. Just what the hell was she going to do now?

 

********* *

(One week, outside the space station (aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh vacuum eeeee) inside the cockpit of 'The Little Pig")

 

"SYSTEMS AT 110% OPERATIONAL CAPACITY." Recited the female monotone of the diagnostic computer.

Elizabeth sighed. Time to go. Time to leave. But to where? Thanks to her many talents, the ship was as close to mint condition as it was gonna get and it now was in possession of the most souped-up boosters this side of the galactic center.

She reached for the comm, but a thought occurred to her. This was completely insane.

She'd been employed by the company for over twelve years, six in cryo, and a little over six building, repairing, flying, piloting, space walking, doing whatever was needed to keep the ships and even the crew going. Cryo-tubes. Hull repair. Repairing engines. Containing coolant leaks. Landing gear. Manned flights. Bathroom repair (you cannot put giant vegetables down the loo and not expect something to go wrong). Dealing with food dispenser chaos. Adjustments. Patching. Fussing. Fixing. Yelling at stupid people who put holes in the hull by doing ???some target practice???...Using gum to patch up switches that had been pulled out by overly aggressive crewmembers. Translating bad swears into slightly more diplomatic languages between passengers and crew. Discreetly ogling the muscular mercenaries. Gossiping with female crew about discreetly ogling the muscular mercenaries. Glaring at the muscular mercenaries who ogled her. Diddling with cryo-tubes to give people she didn't like bad dreams. One time she'd even been a gunner on a battle cruiser and a bodyguard for a very foolish rich man.

Well. Fuck it.

Damn clearance. Bugger the space station. To hell with the Company Hello asteroid belt!!!

She flicked a dozen switches, releasing docking clamps, starting engines, turning on guidance, tracking, telemetry and deflectors.

Then a frantic voice came over the comm. "You are in violation of security measure 721 a, section B. Power down your engines immediately and wait for proper clearance. Repeat! Power down and get clearance!" She reached over and flicked him off.

A shiver went down her spine as her fingers held the manual steering guidance.

 

*****************

(A few years prior to the crash of the Hunter G.)

 

Elizabeth has her head in the wall, while she repaired yet another thing that had been busted. "Hey!" Elizabeth jerked backwards, carefully avoiding a headache.

"Um, hey." She replied, still distracted with repairing the damaged cryo-tube. "Is that going to be ready for flight?"

Elizabeth turned her head and focused on the petite blonde standing to her left. She nodded at her. "I should hope so. I guess it would kinda suck to get stuck in there for fifteen weeks, half asleep, half awake..." T

he blonde smiled. "All that fucking darkness is bad enough."

Elizabeth grinned back. "What's your name?"

The blonde offered her hand. "Fry, Carolyn. Pilot Second Class."

"Pleased to meet you." Said Elizabeth as they shook hands.

"Elizabeth Creek, pilot, engineer, and of course- general pain in the ass." That earned a laugh. Elizabeth cocked her head slightly. "Aussie accent? You must be the new docking pilot right?"

Carolyn nodded, looking not quite happy with the prospect. "Yeah...lucky me."

"Well, I better get back to work. The Captain will be pissed if this is not ready for systems check."

"Yeah...sorry for distracting you."

"That's okay. I needed a break." She reached for a cloth to wipe some grease from her arm. "This job's been a pain in the ass." Grumbled Elizabeth as she gestured to the pod.

"What went wrong?" Her curiosity obvious.

"Some moron decided to use a normal cryo-tube for transporting a highly dangerous criminal. He- of course- escaped. Trashed the tube, killed some of the crew and escaped. I've gotta admit that I'm glad I wasn't on that particular flight."

Carolyn nodded slowly. "So I take it that I'm replacing the 'late' docking pilot."

"Yeah, Jones or something like that. Hope your not too freaked."

This time Carolyn shook her head. "Not too much. Will you be joining us?"

"Nope. Got work on the Alberta-Motaba first."

"Ah yes...cargo and passengers to Insular Paradis."

"The planetary paradise. Pity I won't have a chance to travel down to the surface."

"Well at least the passengers will be frozen the whole way." Elizabeth snorted.

"Thank God. Well Carolyn Fry, Pilot Second Class, it was a pleasure to meet you."

"You too." They shook hands again. "I'll let you get back to your work."

"Thank you for being a distraction. A person could go crazy in this job."

Carolyn grinned as she wandered off down the corridor. "Bye!"

"Bye too!" Elizabeth watched her go. 'Nice girl', she thought. Sighing as she turned back to her task. 'Stupid cryo-tube'.

 

*************

(Prisoner transport. A large group of prisoners are being transported to a larger ship, which will then take them to their final destination- the Ultimate SLAM, an desolate planet now entirely a prison. This is well after the Hunter-G crash. Riddick, Carolyn, Jack & Iman have been captured & are already on the larger ship- but we get to them in a minute. This part of the story is from Xena's point of view.)

 

I could scare believe my luck...or complete lack thereof. I mean I'm no sainted virgin, but to be sent to a SLAM, the nastiest, most notorious type of penal institution in the galaxy, for no good reason, genuinely sucks.

I'd heard rumors that this sort of thing had happened to Company employees in the past, but I never believed that it would ever happen to me. And to involve that poor cutie of a blond guard?!? I scanned up and down the corridor, searching the faces of the other prisoners, all nice and so neatly chained up as far as my eyes could see.

Most of them had succumbed to sheer exhaustion, but a couple of them stared right back at me. Hate, fear and hunger in gazes that once would have sent shivers down my spine. But not now. I'd put up with too much crap in this past year to really care. Or so I'd thought.

"Hey." I said, my voice lowered to avoid attention. "Hey!" Just a little louder this time, trying to get the attention of the aforementioned guard, secured a little to my left, just across the way. He nodded groggily. "Look mate, I don't know your name or much about you, but we gotta talk."

He looked up veeeery slowly. I winced inside. Poor bastard. The Ranger prick had done a number on his face with what looked like a metal baton.

"Can you talk?" I asked.

The former station guard tested his jaw by moving it around. His eyes watered, but he gave it a go. "Yes'h'. Well s'h'ort of. It hurts'h' to talk."

Well that didn't surprise me none. I hadn't missed the pleasure of having a 'number' done on me either. "Well I guess next time you'll duck."

His eyes widened with inside hurt. I suddenly felt the urge to be very far away from this moment and it had nothing to do with the chains on my feet or the fact that I was going to the SLAM. I mean, come on it wasn't liked we were getting married or anything. Aaaaah damn conscience. Thought it'd done a bunk.

"I guess this is my fault. I mean I have perhaps the tiniest idea as to why I'm here, but I can't remember as to how I got here. You're not the only one experiencing concussion lately. " I paused a moment to think about what had just fallen out of my mouth. "Um...did that sound too sarcastic? I mean sorry, I've been in sarcasm mode a lot lately. Must be the company I keep...see I did it again."

He smiled- sort of.

"Anyway. Do you know which SLAM they're sending us to?"

He glanced up and down the corridor. "S'h'orry. If they s'h'aid, I was'h' probably uncons'h'cious at the time."

I sighed, but smiled back at him. "That's okay. How do you feel? Any internal injuries?"

"I don't think s'h'o. He mos'h'tly went for my face. Why?"

I felt the sarcasm fade. "You may start wishing you did have a life threatening injury. I have an awful feeling this is a one-way ticket, and in a SLAM sweetie you could wind up in some awkward positions.

He lost the smile. "Oh…yeah." He said, his voice little. "Why is'h' this'h' happening? What did you do?"

"Not to sure. I've done a lot of stuff that made enemies. However I would like to know which idiotic thing it was and to whom I had done it. I reckon I'd like to be given the chance to take it back."

"You mean they didn't tell you? You weren't charged with anything? But they'd said you were an embezzler."

"Uh...actually that's one of the few things I haven't done. So anyway, what did you do?"

"Well it's probably to do with the guard I shot."

"Yeah well that might do it. I don't remember though."

He nodded. "You were out at the time."

"Doing some shopping." I muttered sarcastically.

He laughed and coughed a little. "Yeah s'h'omething like that."

"Um…thank you I guess."

"That's'h' cool."

"What's your name?"

"My name is-" He was interrupted by a guard telling us to shut up or die.

So we shut up. God I hope Lizzy got my message.

 

************

"The darkness drops again; But now I know that twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle, And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" W.B. YEATS- The Second Coming (The preface of PITCHBLACK, a novel by Frank Lauria) --

 

He was used to waiting. He'd spent most of his life, one way or another, waiting. Things were different now, but he refused to glance up.

There was too much at stake to show weakness. Too much at stake.

Her eyes, wide with apprehension…some fear. She refused to think about it.

Riddick was gonna make it all okay. There was no other way. But why wouldn't he look at her. One glance would make everything alright.

He felt the urge to run prayer beads through his fingers, but they'd taken them.

Along with everything else. Jack, Carolyn…Riddick. All somewhere on this cursed ship, along with so many other lost souls.

They'd said there were going to be scars. Scars she didn't mind. She'd had scars before. Mostly on the inside…on her heart, on her soul. But she had scars.

She wanted to reach back and scratch and itch. It was right over her abdominal aorta…or at least that's what he called it.

Today she was going to the SLAM. She smiled in a brutal fashion. Riddick was going to kill them all.