Riddick felt Jack rather than heard her as she crept down the hallway behind him and had to acknowledge that he was impressed. She was silent and possessed of a natural fluid grace that had taken him years to master. No sound gave her away, she made none, her footfalls were steady and sure and he could picture her toes spread out for balance as she crept catlike on the balls of her feet. Even her breath was silent and tightly controlled. He realized that it was a perfect imitation of him, that she had watched him so carefully, and learned without the need for him to ever say a word.
He had turned his back to her when he went back into the kitchen to make coffee, to see if she would drop her guard and assume that he was too preoccupied to notice her. He inhaled the delicate female scent of her, the only thing that would give away her presence to others and something she probably wasn’t even aware of. He smiled when she didn’t drop her guard. He closed his eyes and reached out for the tiniest of sounds; it was hard to mask all sound on the hard floor of the galley. Another person would have made enough noise to be heard without the need to listen so hard, but not his Jack.
It was pride he felt and he knew he had no reason to; that he knew that didn’t change it. Jack admired him and wanted to be like him, and he couldn’t help but feel proud of that. It made him sad too, but that was something he understood less, that desire to protect her from everything.
Riddick made a point not to give her position away as he made his way to find another mug on the other side of the galley. This was the second trip he had made down the hall since he had woken and he hid his smile behind his coffee cup. She was really good. But he was better. He didn’t turn as he held the cup of coffee out to her without a word. A grin broke on his lips as the stifled snort of laughter from Jack as she stepped out from where she was hidden.
Her voice was full of honest curiosity and amazement when she asked, “How did you know? I was damned quiet; I didn’t think anyone would hear me.” He had put extra milk and sugar in her coffee, he had no idea how a kid would drink it, but took a guess at it. Jack grimaced at the taste, she had never had coffee before, but she would make a point to get to like it if Riddick did.
“I didn’t hear you, Jack.” He grinned a little wider at her puzzled expression, as she wondered how he had known. He wasn’t about to tell her that he had known she was a girl right from the very beginning from her scent alone, he thought it would embarrass her to know that.
They both walked back to the bridge in silence. Riddick had never slept well, and he guessed that Jack didn’t either, by the chrono up front it was just after oh four hundred. Jack curled up in the co-pilots seat with her cup of coffee and they both sat quietly for a while and stared out into space, into the swirls and bright bursts of the nebula that seemed to float all around them. Its blue tendrils looked like water, like some strange sea. They both thought of Theo and his charts, still laid out on the table where they had been before.
Jack watched Riddick over the rim of her coffee cup. It was dark enough that his goggles rested on his forehead and he leaned back in the chair with his eyes closed gently, lost in his own thoughts. A book, a battered copy of the Koran, lay on the console in front of him; he had a piece of paper to mark a passage in the book. She knew that Riddick thought of Imam; she wasn’t the only person that carried a part of him inside. Riddick did too.
“Is Shazza okay, Riddick?” Jack’s voice was small and quiet when she asked; it seemed the whole morning was an exercise in the wait for that one question. She couldn’t sleep last night; she was so worried about her. He opened his eyes to look over at her. She held her coffee cup so tightly her knuckles showed white although she hid her nervousness well.
Jack dropped her hand from her coffee cup when he reached out and covered her hand with his own; it was still a strange gesture for him to make and he never knew if he would get used to it. Her hand was so much smaller in his and while she lacked the scars and calluses that marked his own, her hands weren’t weak either. Jack settled at the touch and her hand turned in his to hold him back. “She’s okay, Jack, she’s just sleeping.” Jack held his gaze, and as he looked back at her he knew he could keep nothing from her, that she could look at him and see right into his soul. Maybe she could always do that, right from the beginning. She was only twelve but in a lot of ways she was a lot older than that; what she had seen to make that possible he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to know, it would hurt too much.
Her eyes flicked over to the bite marks on his throat where Shazza had bitten him the night before; he had tried to cover up with a shirt he had found in one of the closets in their quarters but it didn’t escape Jack. “Sleeping, huh…”
He looked over at her again and tried hard not to grin back at her, “Sleeping, Jack.” She dropped her head and flashed a brilliant smile at him.
Riddick took his hand back and focused on his coffee again, and thought about Shazza. She was asleep and she was okay. He held her until she fell asleep last night; that was something else he found he liked, to just sleep with her and hold her. She awoke a few hours later, after a nightmare and clung to him fiercely for a moment. She had sat up next to him and held his face in her hands; she couldn’t see in the dark but he could. He had no words for what he saw in her face, in her eyes; he had never had anyone look at him like that, as though the whole world rested in him. She kissed him gently where she had bitten him the night before, and had made love to him slowly. It wasn’t intense or mind blowing, it just was. He had no other words for it but felt in that moment that she gave him everything she was in that one simple quiet act. Shazza fell asleep again curled up against his side, but he couldn’t sleep anymore. The act itself was slow and serene but it left every nerve in him alive and on fire; he couldn’t think, he couldn’t breathe, and so he had slipped out of bed before he woke her.
Theo made note of Riddick’s almost imperceptible nod in his direction when he entered the bridge, an acknowledgment of his presence. It dawned on him that Riddick didn’t get up or watch him closely; he had expected him to sit up alert, to watch him intently, but Riddick did neither. Or at least it didn’t show; Theo didn’t think Riddick would miss anything. Theo gestured with his hand when Jack made a move to get out of the co-pilot’s seat; he didn’t want to push his luck and speak directly to her. He still wasn’t sure how Riddick would take that.
“The loading bay.” The two men said it quietly at almost the same time. It would have to be cleaned up. It was cool enough in the loading bay that the bodies wouldn’t start to stink, but that wouldn’t last long.
“Let me help…” Jack was out of her seat at the same time as Riddick, who turned and held her by the shoulders.
“You can’t help with this, Jack. You don’t want to; you don’t want any part of it.” As he watched her, as he said it, he realized that he had never thought there was something really wrong with all the blood and the death that filled so much of his life, until he thought of her being involved. He had no answer for that.
“I’m not a child, Riddick. I want to help.” In some ways she was a child, but in so many ways she wasn’t. There was nothing unsure in her eyes, she didn’t view it as some new game; he wondered not for the first time how many things in her life were deadly serious. She could laugh, really laugh, a sound that bounced off the walls and made him grin with her; but there were times when she looked so serious. Not twelve but so much older. She wasn’t a child.
He dropped his hand from the side of her face; he hadn’t realized that he had done it. That he had cupped her jaw, in much the same way that Shazza had done with him earlier today. Riddick grinned down at her; he could never hide anything from either of them. The two women looked at him and saw through every defense he had spent a lifetime in building. “You can hold the hose, Jack. That’s all. And you do NOT get to tell Shazza.” Jack grinned up at him, although she did try hard to hide it, and he knew he was in trouble.
The ping was a distraction; one he had tried to ignore for several minutes now but he knew he couldn’t ignore it forever. Bishop let out a sigh and turned back to the computer console. It showed black to anyone else that looked, which meant that the message about to come through was private. Very private. He punched in a long string of numbers and waited for the page there to decode.
There were all sorts of mercenaries. Bishop wasn’t one of them, he never called himself one and he didn’t think of himself as one, despite the fact that he held a very high position within the Mercenary Guild. He looked up at the mounted heads of exotic beasts on the walls of his office and recounted the exact details of every kill, of every hunt. Bishop saw himself not as a mercenary; money was irrelevant to him, he had amassed a fortune already and money bored him, wealth and all its trappings bored him. Bishop saw himself as a step above the other mercs beneath him; as money no longer mattered, it seemed a lie to even refer to himself as a mercenary. He was a hunter, a hunter of the most dangerous species in the known universe. He hunted other humans.
He watched the screen for another moment and quickly committed the details to memory; there would be no record of the communication once he had finished with the message, and it would not be sent again. Another mercenary, a man responsible for the destruction of four other mercenary ships, one of which had managed to send out a distress signal. A man that had apparently defaulted with fifteen years left on his mercenary service.
Copyright © September 2006 xxxevilgrinxxx