For those of you who haven’t seen the Riddick movies, please carry on with your day. For those of you who have, enjoy my bit of smut-free fan fiction. This piece was inspired by the lack of answers in the films. It’s my creative stab at pre-Pitch Black lore. Here’s the synopsis:
First Sergeant Jade Waters and her squad have been deployed to investigate rumors surrounding Necromogers and what took place when they invaded Furya years ago. Many rumors exist but, whatever the truth is, they need answers so they can better protect themselves in the inevitability that the Necromongers will discover Earth one day.
Here is the document if you don’t want to scroll through a blog-formatted story: Riddick Fan Fiction
The Chronicles of Riddick: Ghosts of Furya (image courtesy of actionmoviefreak.com)
Furya’s jungle acted like a moist sponge under First Sergeant Jade Waters’ combat boots as she and her squad hiked towards the nearest native community hours away. The jungle could pass for the Amazon rainforest. It flaunted massive trees, fog drifting along the chattering canopy, vibrant birdlife flashing among the vines and branches, and poisonous and sharp obstacles hindering their every step. Frogs, spiders, snakes, ants–all of that. And some plants might as well have had daggers for leaves, as her squad member Sergeant Pond found out the hard way. He now had a forearm bandaged just from brushing up against a plant. It had fronds splaying like an Asian fan with pink flowers on the end, their petals also sharp. Thankfully the plant wasn’t poisonous but now Pond had the nickname “Flower Boy” slapped on him. Making fun of him for getting owned by a little pink flower would get old one year. Maybe…
Joking aside, Waters and the four others on her team, including Pond, had their sleeves unrolled, safety glasses on, and rifles in hand. They had a more pressing issue than sharp flora, and more imminently pressing than finding out if rumors were true that something strange had occurred when the Necromongers had assaulted Furya.
Something big was stomping towards them from behind. Something really big–bigger-than-an-elephant big. The ground rumbled with the beasts loping strides. Four feet or paws, or hooves, or whatever. Impossible to tell with the soft jungle floor. To be quite honest, she wasn’t eager to satisfy her curiosity. Sadly, the more she didn’t want to know, the closer its tromping sounded and felt.
“Waters,” Pond, her team’s point, said, “There’s a clearing up ahead. Should we chance it?”
She spied the extra sunlight lancing to the jungle floor. It had to be a gap sizable to a two-lane road. Maybe it was a road. Her gut didn’t like the sight of it this many miles from the nearest Furyan civilization, which they’d purposely landed far from for safety’s sake. Still, being on an alien planet, how much could she rely on gut reactions? Everything about Furya felt like a threat, especially after hearing the rumors. “Let’s see what kind of clearing it is. If it’s manmade, we take it. If not, we keep away. We still don’t know if Stompy back there is hunting us or not.”
“Yes, ma’am.” His close-cropped black hair ducked under an arch of vines and leaves. Markham, the team’s tech specialist, followed, ducking excessively low. Spark, the squad’s sharpest shooter and shortest member, walked upright under the arch. Kenner, the tallest and bulkiest Marine Waters had ever met, ducked low and twisted so one massive shoulder led the way.
Waters ducked her head, then checked behind her once on the other side of the arch. The thundering beast was still nowhere in sight, however she could make out distant trees and branches swaying and jerking to make room for it. The clearing seemed like a great idea so they could move faster, but a horrible one in the name of too much exposure. Fire or frying pan… tough call. The squad plodded forward.
The clearing turned out to be a wide animal path full of tracks of varying shapes and sizes. One set of four-toed tracks was big enough for three people to stand in the central imprint. Each rounded toe had a claw hole in front of it. The five Marines halted in a line parallel to the path, their rifles angled towards the ground.
“Well damn,” Spark said unhappily.
“At least they’re not t-rex tracks,” Markham said with a wry smile. He glanced up and down the path, then at the canopy, which was mercifully high up. The rest of the jungle felt so claustrophobic. Ample sun sparkled between the leaves a hundred feet in the air, which shone in patches on the tracks. “Feline? Canine? Something else?”
“Something we don’t have back on Earth,” Pond said.
“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Markham said dryly.
Waters said, “Worry about it later. We need to keep moving.” She glanced back again. The waving branches and trees veered at an angle, making it hard to tell if the beast was getting closer or skirting around them. “Hold on. Kenner.” She waved him closer. He closed the gap and towered next to her. “Scope the trees. Which way is it going now?”
Kenner flipped an uneven pair of scopes over his safety glasses and began fiddling with buttons and dials on one side. His brows knit with concentration. “Might be trying to flank us. It’s moving in an arc to our position. He lifted the scopes and looked at his handheld GPS. According to the device, Stompy would find the winding path if it stayed on the course it’d shifted to. “I don’t like this.”
Waters said, “Let’s sit tight and see where it goes. It’s not like we can’t kill it if it grows hostile towards us.” She unconsciously patted her high-powered rifle.
“Ma’am,” Markham said. He pointed to a huge tree just on the other side of the path. “It looks quite climbable.”
The tree was a candy cane of vines wrapping around a trunk as wide as a hummer. She nodded to them. “Climbing gear out.” Ground still shaking, the squad shouldered their rifles and donned climbing spikes that latched to their boots and gloves, then they gingerly drew their weapons so they wouldn’t get snared in the spikes. “Spark, keep an eye on Stompy. Markham and Kenner, cover our flanks. Pond, get us there.”
All four men barked compliance, then Pond looked both ways before cautiously stepping onto the path, his rifle leading the way with searching sweeps. The squad crossed in a tight diamond formation, their hasty steps light enough to change course on command.
The openness gave Waters an adrenaline rush. As great as it was to have a break from all the claustrophobia, the openness made it feel like all eyes in the jungle had started looking their way as they grew quieter. Goosebumps formed on her arms.
They made it to the gargantuan tree with Stompy still circumventing them. For all they knew, it was a gentle giant. Still, no point in taking chances.
Pond drew a machete and hacked away the sharp bushes skirting the tree. He worked with methodical urgency but it didn’t feel fast enough. The beasts’s strides were thumping as fast as Waters’ pounding heart. Once the trunk was clear and sporting a few nicks, Pond shouldered his rifle and shook out his hands.
His bandage stood out as he reached for purchase. It was still tightly wrapped and free of blood stains. The gel holding his gashes closed had done its job. But… could the smell of blood seep through all that? One drop enough to catch a predator’s attention? Then again, maybe blood didn’t matter. Waters sniffed an underarm and the smell of baby powder deodorant filled her nose. Oh, god. Had they left an alluring scent trail just by being alien to Furya? She bit back her desire to urge Pond to climb faster as she watched his careful movements.
Markham ascended second with Kenner right behind him. Spark hopped onto the tree after Kenner, and kept one hand near his rifle at all times. The sight brought Waters some comfort as she followed the sharpshooter up the trunk. She gave him a little extra space in case he needed to fire over her auburn head.
The swishing of branches fell silent but the thundering ground continued without faltering. The beast must’ve found the path. Everyone checked below, but saw nothing and continued climbing a little faster. Waters tuned out the stomping and focused on the climb so her fingers wouldn’t stiffen with fright. Stompy was definitely getting closer, and he’d picked up the pace. Just great.
Sixty feet into the air, Pond climbed onto a branch as thick as one of Kenner’s massive legs. Markham shimmied past him, then sprawled out and aimed his rifle at the path. Kenner took the branch opposite them, Spark climbed a tier higher, and Waters stationed herself against the trunk on Kenner’s branch.
The five of them could hear themselves gasping for breath as all wildlife fell silent.
Spark exclaimed, “Hey, there’s a kid up here!”
Before Waters could look up, movement below drew her attention. It was the beast. Its steps made the trees vibrate and leaves shiver. Trusting Spark, Waters shouldered her rifle and clung to the trunk. The beast looked like a giant grizzly bear, but with a long, pointed snout, along with pointed ears that drew back along a head the size of a car.
Kenner said, “That’s one big-ass fucking bear.”
“That’s not a bear,” Pond said.
“No shit, Sherlock, but that’s what I’m calling it.”
“Shh!” Waters held up a fist, then whispered for them to be quiet.
Spark hoarsely whispered, “Pond, watch out!”
The tree vibrated with the small thud of a boy no more than fifteen landing in a crouch next to Markham. The boy had a tangled head of dark brown hair that fell past his lean shoulders. He wore patched-together animal hides protecting everything but his feet like a ragged, filthy toga with sleeves, the bottom halves of the sleeves missing. He’d used vines to tie down his getup around his forearms, waist, thighs, and underarms. The kid needed a bath real bad. Or new hides.
Pond said, “Kid, what are you doing up here?”
The kid leaned closer and narrowed his eyes. He sniffed the air like a hound, then brought his nose closer to Pond’s bandage. He recoiled and bared his teeth as he snarled.
“What? Crap happens.” Pond looked at the boy a second time, then at his bandage, and then at the bear beast. His eyes widened. “Oh, god. Waters, do you–?”
The kid shoved Pond, who fell head-first off the branch.
“Pond!” Waters screamed.
Pond hugged the trunk with his legs and swung like a pendulum. Laying against the branch, Markham scooted closer and held out a hand. Pond clasped it as the kid pushed at his legs. Pond and Markham yelled at him to stop, and Markham leveled his rifle at him. The kid ignored the gun and continued trying to push Pond to his death.
Pond aimed a kick and swung with a grunt. The kid dropped onto the branch, clutching his groin. Markham helped hoist Pond up and behind him, then steadied his rifle with both hands. “What the hell’s your problem, kid?”
The tree shook violently, startling everyone. The bear beast stared up at them, pointed ears pricked forward. It stood on its hind legs with its front paws halfway up.
“That’s one big-ass trophy,” Spark said.
Waters said, “You’re not stinking up my ship with its head even if it could fit!”
Kenner said, “Just take a picture and a few fangs.”
“It’ll have to do,” Spark said solemnly.
“Will you open fire already?” Water said. “Everyone else save your ammo just in case.”
The bear reared back, then came down on the trunk with its multi-ton weight as Spark fired two armor-piercing shots. Everyone cried out as the tree swayed like a sapling in a hurricane. The bear turned its head and let out a deep roar that made Waters’ chest vibrate. Huge fangs filled its maw. Spark sent two more bullets down its throat, cutting the roar off. The tree swayed back but not quite upright. The bear reared and bashed the tree again. A series of wooden cracks sounding like exploding fireworks rang through the air. The tree swayed, stopped for a moment, then slowly resumed teetering as more roots cracked and snapped. The trunk rammed into another tree as its branches clawed through foliage. The tree twisted around its obstacle and gained momentum as it continued falling.
Waters glanced at the kid, who was watching the ground rush up to meet them. “Kenner, secure the Furyan kid.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Kenner jumped over Waters and latched onto the trunk like a squirrel. The kid gave him a cursory glance.
Waters jumped onto the relative safety of the trunk as well, then waved Markham and Pond over. Kenner held out a hand, but the kid only looked at it.
Markham yelled, “Move, kid!” He grabbed the kid under the shoulders and hefted him to Kenner, who clamped him to his chest. The kid struggled to break free, but fell still when Kenner barked at him to stop so loud that Waters flinched.
Kenner said, “God, this kid stinks.”
The tree was feeling pretty darn horizontal by the time Markham and Pond scrambled onto the trunk. The tree hit the ground with a deep boom. The rebound slapped everyone as if they’d belly flopped onto cement, and they would’ve gone airborne if it hadn’t been for their climbing gear. They bounced with the tree a few more times, then all of them lay still, groaning and panting.
Waters wanted to get up. The bear was still around. However, the wind had been knocked out of her and she’d clocked her head the first time the trunk hit the ground. She lay there and let the waves of pain pass, hoping the bear would give them at least a one-minute reprieve.
The ground vibrated with loping thunder. The bear beast bore down on them with a deadly glare. Blood dribbled from one beady eye.
Spark lurched to his feet and winced as he took aim from atop the trunk. He gritted his teeth, sucked in a deep breath, and his weapon stilled. Waters rolled onto her back and took aim as well. Together they let fly several rounds into the bear’s face.
The bear veered away and ground to a halt. It shook its massive head and pawed at its face.
The rest of the squad pushed to their feet, wincing as they clutched their chests or faces. Kenner held the Furyan kid in a head lock, who watched the bear with… interest. No fear; just interest. How many of these beasts had he come across in his lifetime?
Waters said, “Defensive formation around Kenner and the kid.”
Markham said, “If it’s smart, it’ll think we’re too much work to make a meal of us.”
“We’ve shot it a dozen times and it hasn’t run off yet,” Spark said. “How smart do you think it is?”
The bear perked its ears towards their voices. It turned on them and let out an angry roar that hurt their ears, then barreled forward.
Four of them fired round after round but it felt like they were shooting at a tank. All of them scattered right before the bear plowed through. It snapped at where they’d been standing and swiped with paws big enough to send a tank rolling. Kenner and the kid got clipped by one. They went flying and disappeared into the brush.
“Kenner!” Waters yelled. She gave them three seconds to pop into view. “Pond, find and cover them!”
“The bear turned on Waters and came at her teeth first. She dived forward, somersaulted to her feet, and fired at the underside of its jaw. The bear backed up, stumbled over the fallen tree, and shook its head. Blood sprinkled everywhere. Spark fired more rounds and the bear continued to back off.
Pond said, “Waters, I found them!”
“Hold your fire!” The bear paused and Spark stopped firing. They needed something more effective to attack with. Waters pulled out a sticky frag from a belt pouch and held it up. “Boom time.”
Spark grinned at her as he shouldered his rifle.
“Markham, boom time. Get its right. I got its left. Spark, go for the throat.” It was a risky maneuver; however, the bear was bleeding pretty bad and clumsy in its movements. Spark radiated excitement as he stood between Waters and Markham, two frags in hand. “Fire in the hole!”
The bear turned on Waters and charged, jaws wide. Blood stained its fangs and and red-tinted spittle hung from them like broken spiderwebs.
“Markham, now!” Waters said. They flanked the bear as it headed straight for Spark. One massive leg stomped within reach. Her arm sunk up to her elbow in rough fur before her frag glued itself to the bear. She ran off, bounding over branches, and took cover near the fallen tree.
Spark jumped and threw one frag like a sidearm pitcher, then spun midair and threw the other like a tennis player executing an underhand swing. He fell as his frags disappeared into the bear’s mouth, and then he disappeared under tromping paws. Waters’ stomach lurched.
Explosions erupted from the bear’s forelegs and inside its head. The bear flinched and its head jerked back. Fur, blood, guts, and bone fragments filled the air like an exploded piñata. Hopefully this carnage would divert future predators to this location, instead everywhere the squad went once they moved off. The bear lay still.
Chest tight, Waters ran to where she’d last seen Spark. Markham met her there, swiftly followed by Pond, Kenner, and the Furyan kid who was secured in a double armlock. He was eyeing everyone’s rifles with a mix of awe and trepidation. Both he and Kenner looked blood-splattered but unharmed.
The ground was widely stamped flat and splattered with gore. They called out to Spark.
A groan came from near the fallen tree and a hand pushed through the flattened brush, no blood on the hand. Waters rushed over and pulled away vines and branches until he was able to sit up. Spark gasped for breath, yet assured everyone he was alright. He looked whole. Disheveled but whole. He just needed a moment to catch his breath and regain his bearings. Pond and Markham gave him slaps of approval on his back. Waters said, “Thank you, sir. That was an amazing act of bravery. You earned your trophy.”
“The whole head?” he said with a wry smile.
“Not a chance. Someone go get him his fang.” With exception of the kid, they all laughed that tension-releasing laugh that follows a moment of high stress. Pond ran off to the carcass.
Kenner stopped laughing. “How many times do I have to tell you to stop struggling, kid?” The Furyan tried to pull his arms free, but Kenner just bore pressure on his elbows, pushing them in the direction they weren’t supposed to bend. The kid stopped but kept his wary gaze on all of them. There was intelligence in those dark eyes, like he was gauging all of them for their strengths and weaknesses as he calculated how he was going to escape.
Waters experimentally aimed her rifle at the kid, who stiffened yet wore a glare. She lowered her weapon.
Markham said, “I don’t think he knows what to make of laughter. He probably doesn’t like the sight so many teeth while being held captive.”
“So we’ve got ourselves a feral Furyan,” Kenner said unhappily. “Just great.”
“Maybe they’re all like this,” Pond yelled to them while pulling at a fang the size of his arm. “We just don’t know.”
“A bunch of barbarians survived a Necromonger invasion?” Spark said. “I don’t buy that. We skirted one of their beat-up civilizations. They have technology.”
“Maybe he’s just an outcast or an orphan,” Markham said. “What’s your name, kid?”
“I think we’ve already established that he doesn’t speak English,” Pond said. “Or any language for that matter.”
Waters said, “Kenner release him.”
“No disrespect, ma’am, but are you sure?”
She nodded. “He’s already figured out what our guns do. Just look at his eyes. They’ve got an intelligent look to them.”
Kenner let go of the kid’s arms and backed up a step. The kid stood in the middle of the squad and took in each of them. He studied the gaps between them as well. Spark got to his feet. Waters hefted her rifle but didn’t aim. The kid studied her again, making her feel like she was the first female he’d ever seen. She mentally winced. “Okay, we need to get back to the ship before we get surrounded by more bears and such. After that, we’re gonna chance flying right up to their civilization. This jungle’s just too damn dangerous. Pond, get back on point. I’ll carry the fang. Kenner, you’re in back with me. Everyone form up!” Waters marched up to the kid. “You’re coming with us whether you like it or not.” She pointed towards the animal path. “Start walking.” She was almost positive the kid didn’t understand a word any of them said, but there was an intelligence about him that gave her the feeling he’d catch on quick. On top of that, she felt better when barking out orders.
The squad marched back with the Furyan kid guarded on all sides. He moved warily but at least he behaved–well, for the most part. He was constantly taking in his surroundings. Still planning his escape? Probably. Waters wasn’t surprised. If she were in his position with his culture and language barriers, how safe and trusting would she feel? There had to be a way to put him at ease.
Waters ordered Pond to switch places with her and told Spark to keep his stun gun at the ready. Both men complied. She walked beside the kid and made furtive eye contact. He broke away from his escape plot–or whatever was going on inside his head–and studied her with interest. Waters began to wonder if her being female would give her some leverage. She didn’t like it but executing a successful mission outranked keeping a cold distance between her and their only link to the rest of the Furyans.
She had a sudden vision of her subordinates teasing her if this played out like a Tarzan and Jane scenario, but an unwilling Jane with an underage Tarzan. Heck, she already had an oversized fang tied to her pack. She sighed.
The kid sighed back.
Waters looked at him again. Did he think that was her way of saying hello or something? “What’s your name, kid?”
“Whasser-eh, kid?” the Furyan said.
Waters halted. So did the rest of the squad. She probably should’ve expected the response but… “We can’t stop here. Keep moving.” She and her Marines fell back in-step, forcing the kid to continue with them.
“Keep moving,” he said in the same authoritative tone. The rest of her squad laughed.
Pond said, “Looks like Sarge has her own mimic bird now.”
“Very funny,” she said dryly. The Furyan echoed her and the Marines laughed again.
“Ha ha ha,” the kid said, sounding unsure. He awkwardly imitated laughter again, which generated more laughter from the squad.
Pond said, “I think this is the first time experienced laughter.”
“Probably,” Markham said.
The Furyan imitated laughter a third time, which made even Waters laugh. Everyone fell silent and the kid slipped into contemplation mode. He perked at every sound the forest made but would turn back to his thoughts right after, as if disappointed with what he heard. Maybe a minute into this repeated behavior, he perked up and stopped contemplating. “Ha ha ha.”
Waters smiled, and so did the rest of her squad.
The kid laughed again, which got a few laughs. He looked at all of them and kept imitating laughter every time they stopped. It was amusing at first, but soon something felt off about the situation. It was like he didn’t want there to be silence. He imitated laughter without any humor in his voice and looked at them expectantly. Waters had feeling he wasn’t doing this for his own amusement.
And then she realized what was off. “Everyone quiet!”
The kid considered her a moment. “Ha ha ha.”
The men snickered.
“Something wrong, ma’am?” Pond said.
“Listen.” They marched on, hearing only the swishing of their boots through the brush.
“I don’t hear anything,” Markham said.
“Exactly,” Waters said unhappily.
“Ha ha ha.”
Waters leveled her rifle at the kid. “Be. Quiet.” Respectful fear played across his dark eyes. He lowered his gaze and she slowly lowered her weapon.
“The forest fell silent when the bear got near,” Pond said.
“At least the ground isn’t shaking this time.”
“We just got outwitted by a kid,” Spark said, his voice dripping with humiliation.
“Yep,” Kenner said, sounding equally humiliated.
They continued in silence for a mile. Forest ruckus rose and fell, but overall stayed subdued. The kid sniffed the air and his demeanor suddenly changed from calm to energetic. “Rrr-d’ck!”
“What he say?” Kenner asked.
“Riddick?” Markham offered.
“More like arr-dick,” Pond said.
“Rrr-d’ck!” the kid said again.
“Animal call?” Markham said.
“Maybe he’s finally telling us his name,” Pond said. “Riddick.”
“Beats calling him ‘kid,’” Kenner said.
Waters found herself agreeing. “Hey, Riddick. Be quiet.” She raised her rifle slightly for emphasis.
Riddick eyed the rifle, then fell silent, but not before sniffing the air.
The hairs on the back of Waters’ neck stood on end. All her survival and combat training screamed that they were being watched. Hunted. “Everyone on high alert.” She aimed her rifle at the jungle and strained to catch a glimpse of movement independent of the flora. Spying nothing didn’t alleviate her fear. There was something out there nearby, something the kid had been trying attract. And he hadn’t been afraid of the bear… “Spark, keep an eye on Riddick.”
Riddick’s head turned ever so slightly. Spark spun around, rifle leading the way. A black beast the size of a tiger bowled him over before he could get a shot off, then it proceeded to knock the rest of the squad down. No one fired any shots; they were all in each other’s line of fire.
Waters fell under a blow from one of the creature’s forepaws and got the wind knocked out of her. She sat up as she watched Riddick ride off astride the creature, which looked like a wolf that moved with feline grace. She pulled out her stun gun and fired several rounds, which looked like blue smoke rings that sparked. One shot hit Riddick square in the back. He stiffened and fell into the brush. “I got him!” she said in disbelief.
Spark stood beside her, his own stun gun in one hand. “No you didn’t,” he said with a smirk.
Waters brushed off the blow to her pride. The wolf thing doubled back and sniffed at its rider, then looked at the squad. It snarled.
Pond raised his rifle.
“Pond, don’t!” Waters shouted.
The wolf charged and Spark stopped it with two shots from his stun gun. Its body slid to a halt mere feet in front of Kenner, who swapped out his own rifle for a stun gun.
“Kenner, go collect Riddick.”
Kenner grimaced. “First dibs on the shower when we get back to the ship.” He trudged off and shouldered Riddick with a grunt.
Leaving the wolf-thing to its nap, they fell back in formation and recommenced their trek. Waters glanced back only once. The creature lay still, its silky chest rising and falling with every breath. It’d remain out cold for a solid thirty minutes, as would the kid.
Riddick stirred and blearily opened his eyes. Kenner paused and looked over his empty shoulder.
Pond said, “That was an unnaturally fast recovery.”
Spark trained his stun gun on the wolf, which was still unconscious.
Riddick looked up and called to the wolf. When it didn’t respond, he rolled off Kenner’s shoulder and hit the ground running. He bowled Spark over before he could get a shot off and stopped at the wolf’s side, sniffed, then opened an eyelid. He eyed their stun guns and slowly stood.
Waters said, “We’re not killing your pet or taking it with us. Now get over here.” She pointed to him, waved him over with one swift jerk, then pointed at the ground in front of her. He just stood there, trying to puzzle out her words and body language. “Spark, I don’t feel like playing cat-and-mouse.”
Spark fired his stun gun. Riddick tried to dodge the bullet-speed ring, but it hit him in his flank and he fell. Kenner collected him once more, but this time held him in an arm lock as he waited for the kid to recover.
Riddick stirred a minute later and tensed at the sight of the sleeping wolf.
Waters knelt by the creature, which looked like someone had spliced a tiger and black wolf together. It had a broad head like a tiger, canine ears, long thin legs, and a tail as long as its body, but tufted like a wolf’s. “It’s still alive. We didn’t kill it because you didn’t have it try to kill us.” Riddick stared blankly at her. She waved him over, then made a big show of placing a hand on the wolf’s heaving chest. “Kenner, let him go.”
Riddick took in everyone’s positions, then cautiously drew closer and knelt by Waters and the wolf. He placed a grubby hand next to hers.
“See? It’s still alive.”
Riddick tried shaking it awake.
She flung out an arm. “No!” He stopped but eyed her suspiciously. “Look, I don’t know how to get you to understand that pets aren’t allowed on space ships. We don’t have the space or the means to keep it alive or put it in cryo–why am I trying to explain myself?” She jumped to her feet. “Let’s just get back to the ship already.”
They made it to the ship in two hours. Riddick was hesitant at first, but he eventually gave up looking back every few seconds. He called out for the wolf now and then, and sniffed the air, but he gave up that as well long before they reached the ship.
Kenner took first dibs on showering. The rest of them followed suit as they took turns guarding a very pungent Furyan. Waters showered last, which led up to the inevitable dilemma surrounding getting Riddick clean.
Her squad and special guest/captive awaited her at the base of the ship’s ramp. The rest of the men watched as Pond tried to teach Riddick words but he stopped at the sight of her. He swiped at whatever he’d drawn in the dirt and all of them respectfully stood at attention. “At ease.” She came to a halt in front of the kid. “So who wants to give Stinky a shower?”
The four of them chorused, “Not it.”
Pond said, “You should bathe him, Waters, seeing as how you’re female. I’m not putting my hands where they don’t belong.”
She folded her arms. “Do I really have to make this an order?”
Kenner said, “I’ll accompany you in case he puts up a fight, but that’s it.”
“Oh, so you all want to make me the pedophile?” It was more a statement than a question.
Markham and Pond said, “More like cougar.” They looked at each other and grinned.
Waters sighed. “Bunch of wimps.” She marched back up the ramp. “Lemme go put on a dive suit.”
* * *
The shower was running with heated water pumped in from the lake they’d touched down next to. Waters stood by the stall door, wearing a wetsuit and water shoes. Kenner sat outside the bathroom door, just a yell away. Riddick, head shaved clean and stripped to his birthday suit, stood next to her, watching the water stream onto the tiled floor. He already looked more presentable, yet quite confused. Shaving his head hadn’t been too much trouble. Kenner had held him still while Markham buzzed him clean with an electric razor. The boys gave him a minute to absorb the shock from the sudden loss of all his hair, along with get accustomed to the feel of a clean-shaven scalp before escorting him to the small shower cabin. They handed him over to Waters and made themselves scarce.
Getting Riddick’s hides and vines off hadn’t taken too much coaxing after threatening him with a stun gun. Not the way she wanted to treat him but she’d yet to find a way around it. The kid had figured out an effective braid weave to keep his hides snugly in place. The hides themselves were covered in scrapes and scratches, and a few slices. They would would great while burning in a fire.
Waters stuck a hand under the stream, which was pleasantly hot. Riddick just stood there and watched. “It’s just water.” She splashed him with a handful. He flinched and patted at the droplets. She guided his hand under the water. He flinched again, thought a moment, then stuck both hands in. Waters gently pushed him closer so the stream hit his chest. Riddick cupped his hands and tried to take a drink but he spat it back out. “You want colder water for that.”
She did a double-take. How’d he picked up that word so fast? “Yes, water. You’re quite the smart one. The girls are never gonna leave you alone once you’ve learned some etiquette, social skills, and language.”
“Yes, girl.” She pointed to herself, then pointed to him. “Boy.” And back at herself. “Girl.” Riddick’s intense gaze brightened with an interest that made her feel uncomfortable. She frowned when his eyes lowered to her chest. “No. Start showering.”
She forcibly turned him around and shoved a washcloth in one of his grubby hands.
Riddick spun around and looked at her inappropriately again. Waters tried to force him back around. “I said no. Now start washing.”
She froze, then memory of Pond scuffing up his drawing in the dirt flashed across her mind. Riddick reached for her chest. She slapped his hand away harder than she meant to but didn’t bother apologizing. “No. Boy. Water. Shower. Now.” She stormed over to the bathroom door and found Kenner cleaning his rifle. “Tell Flower Boy he’s in big trouble when I’m done with Riddick.” She slammed the door and stormed back. She didn’t know how she was going to punish Pond, but she’d think of something later.
* * *
Waters didn’t take offense to the insubordinate anatomy lesson. They were men starved of their wives and girlfriends. Typical men, too, sadly. The only thing she wasn’t going to let slide was their attempts to corrupt the Furyan kid before he could fluently speak English. Pond stood next to Waters outside the ship, him sweating away while standing at rigid attention.
Riddick was clean and dressed in a brown t-shirt, BDU pants, and combat boots. He looked like a kid fresh out of basic. The only thing he lacked was carrying himself with discipline. At first he hadn’t wanted to keep the boots on, but when Markham guided him over rocky terrain he hadn’t wanted to touch and discovered it didn’t hurt, Riddick took to his boots with open fascination. He marched all around the makeshift campsite, seeing what he could stomp on without getting hurt. The squad watched with stun guns at their sides. They let the kid enjoy himself while Waters took the opportunity to study the Furyan, watching how he moved like a predator, and seemed to have his attention on everything around him. She made a mental note to not underestimate the kid. “Pond,” she said crisply.
“Do you want your punishment now, or when we get home?”
“As you wish.” Making him sweat while at attention for the past fifteen minutes was sufficient punishment for now, but only for now. “At ease.” She didn’t want to dehydrate any of her men faster than Furya’s tropical climate already was. That and she didn’t want to discipline them in front of the kid.
Pond let out a sigh of relief. “The Jade Dragon returns to her slumber. Thank god!”
“For now,” Jade Waters, a.k.a. the Jade Dragon, said. She’d earned that nickname long ago. It praised her prowess as a leader and complimented her hard-ass side most knew better than to taunt. She’d been top pick for this Furya mission. “Go round everyone up. Time to search for more natives.”
Riddick’s behavior was improving exponentially, especially after learning the word “no.” He’d also learned his name and now they didn’t need stun guns out to correct him. Comforting as that was, Waters kept her guard up around him. There was a tension underlying all his movements, like he was always ready for fight or flight. She wanted to trust him and wanted him to trust all of them, but they hadn’t reached that point yet. She hadn’t forgotten how Riddick had tried to push Pond out of the tree, and he more than likely hadn’t forgotten his pet wolf-thing.
Waters flew the ship low over the canopy, low enough to blow aside the treetops with her quadra jets just like the bear had earlier. The sun shined down on her right, making it somewhere around mid afternoon in this time zone.
Waters felt a presence behind her. Riddick stood there, his intense gaze watching the canopy whip by below. “Well look who’s left his corner,” she said happily. The poor kid had been terrified while the ship made all sorts of noises during warmup and takeoff. They’d tried to coax him to a passenger chair so they could strap him down, but he lashed out with savage fury at anyone who tried to get close. Spark had kept an eye on him and stun gun handy, but the kid just stared back, crouched on all fours while jammed under a weapon rack near the hatch.
The ship’s cabin was one half-circle big enough to accommodate ten soldiers. It had ten cryo-tanks lining the walls, weapon racks on each side of the ramp, a gunner chair on each flank, two pilot chairs with two rows four passenger chairs behind them, and reinforced glass divided into segments along the nose of the craft. Ninety percent of the ship was purgeable fuel tanks, so the whole ship looked like a sleek torpedo with a few extra curves to create air foils, along with retractable wings attached to the belly. The wings were out.
Riddick stared longingly at the trees. “Rrr-d’ck.”
“No, Riddick,” she said gently. “We’re not going back for your wolf.” He hunched his shoulders. “I’m sorry.”
He straightened up and looked at her. “I’m sorry?”
“That’s what you say when you hurt someone’s feelings. You’ll understand one day.”
He turned back to the jungle. “I’m sorry.”
Waters wanted to go all maternal and pull the kid into a hug, but she resisted, feeling torn between fearing the kid’s feral side and wanting to help him feel safe. Still, there was one thing she could do right now. “Everybody grab some food. Spark, you’re in charge of feeding Riddick.” The kid perked up at the mention of his name. “Yes, Riddick. Here’s your new word: food.”
The cabin filled with the din of men shuffling around and opening plastic containers and wrappers. Spark appeared with some cheese and an open package of jerky. The mouth-watering smell reminded Waters how hungry she was, but she’d stick the ship into autopilot mode after everyone else ate.
Riddick sniffed the air. “Food?” Spark handed him a beef-flavored stick. The kid accepted and sniffed it but didn’t eat. Spark tore off a bite of a second stick and ate it. He handed over the rest of the stick. Riddick tore off a bite and experimentally chewed, then brought his hands close to his mouth and began wolfing down the jerky. His eyes darted around as if he expected them to try and take his meal away. Spark handed over the rest of the jerky and Riddick snatched it up.
“Congratulations, Spark,” Waters said. “You’re his new best friend.”
“Even after all that time you spent with him in the shower?” he said with a grin.
“Keep that up and I’ll punish all of you, instead of just Flower Boy.”
“Yes, ma’am. Would you like some cheese?”
“Actually, I would.” Why wait for food when it was brought to her?
Spark held it out but Riddick snatched the package before Waters could turn around.
“Food.” He took a huge bite, plastic wrapper and all, then made a face and dumped it on the floor. “Food. No.”
Spark picked it up. “You gotta take it out of the wrapped, kid.” He peeled the non-bitten end open and held it up, pointing at the cheddar. “Food.” He pointed at the wrapper. “Food no. Not food.” Then back at the cheddar. “Food. Understand?”
Riddick snatched it back, took an experimental bite, then a bigger one and swallowed. “Food,” he said with a smile.
Water bottles were passed around. Waters checked her fuel levels, then set the ship into autopilot and joined them in a late lunch.
They came in low on a Furyan civilization. It looked ancient Mayan. There were pyramids sticking out between the trees, along with blocky stone structures laid out in grid formation around the pyramids. The grids were perfectly aligned with the planet’s nautical directions. No life was visible to the naked eye.
Waters switched on two screens built into the control panel, one hooked up to a belly cam with high zoom power, the other hooked up to a thermal cam. “Pond, Markham, man the stations,” she said, meaning the side gunner seats. “Kenner, Spark, come help me look for Furyans.” Kenner took the seat next to her and Spark hovered behind them, bouncing his gaze between the screens and window. Riddick drifted to Waters’ side but kept his eyes on the civilization.
“What the hell happened here?” Kenner said in a subdued tone. “I don’t think there’s anyone to shoot us down.”
The place looked like it had been through a war. Most of it lay in ruin with debris everywhere. Among the ruins lay broken black space ships of varying styles and sizes, some sleek like fighter craft, others massive and bulky like cargo craft. The bulky ones had ebony faces with gaping mouths and blank eyes. The crafts starkly contrasted what was left of the Furyan civilization like a smashed up checkers board.
Spark said, “Well, all we know for sure is that Necromongers clashed with the Furyans. Now we just have to find out if there’s been total genocide or not.”
“I’m leading towards genocide,” Markham said, “even with Riddick here.”
“I’m not. Too tall of a tale. How would we have even heard about this if there hadn’t been survivors fifteen years ago?”
“Okay, you win this one.”
Waters said, “Well, we heard about Furya thanks to the spies tailing the Necromongers.” She dipped the ship and slowed to a crawl. Kenner watched the screens. She, Spark, and Riddick scanned the scenery with their eyes. “There were mixed messages surrounding whether they murdered just the males or indiscriminately. Intel never touched down on Furya ‘cause the Necros left in a hurry.”
“Why would they go through all this trouble to kill just males?” Spark said. “And for what purpose?”
“It doesn’t make sense if you ask me,” Pond said.
“No,” the rest of them chorused.
Spark said, “What would make more sense is if they’d just destroyed the planet, like they always do.”
“We’re forgetting about including the Furyans in the equation,” Waters said. “It’s not like they just sat here and let themselves be slaughtered. No clue what kind of technology they used to put up such a big fight.”
“Maybe they ran off with all their high tech stuff to another civilization. There’s metal and piping among the stonework that doesn’t match the goth Necro stuff.”
“Heat signature on thermal!” Kenner yelled, point at the left screen.
Waters veered the ship towards the humanoid shape and touched down next to a large pyramid that was half intact, half crushed by a fighter ship. The heat signature came from within the pyramid. “Kenner, bring the kid with you and guard him at all times.”
“Everyone arm up and move out.”
They hurried off the ship and slowed to a cautious pace once they were right outside the half of the pyramid that was still standing. Pond led them in with Markham’s guidance from a handheld thermal cam. Spark followed behind, dual-wielding a stun gun and pistol. Waters entered fourth with Kenner and Riddick bringing up the rear. Riddick imitated their stealth tactics. She was surprised he hadn’t attempted to run off the moment they’d let the ramp down. Maybe he’d started trusting them more, especially after being fed. Or maybe that was a bit of a stretch and he was behaving just because everyone had guns in hand. Whatever it was, she was thankful for the cooperation. She’d deemed it unwise to cuff and strap him to a passenger chair. She didn’t want to test his escape skills with no eyes on him, much less return to a sabotaged ship cabin.
The pyramid’s interior was beautifully lit with glowing crystals, giving the place an exotic feel. The sound of cascading water reached their ears. They could smell its moisture. Mold lined the corners and cracks in the stonework, making the tight corridors extra aromatic.
A few twisting corridors in, more light greeted them. They passed under a stone archway into a broad vaulted room that sat under the pyramid’s apex. Light beams coming in at angles from the ceiling hit a large crystal sitting atop a three-tiered fountain in the middle of the room. The crystal bounced light off strategically-placed mirrors, which fully lighted the chamber and made the water shimmer.
“What the–?” Markham exclaimed. “The heat signature just vanished.”
“Did it run off?” Pond said.
“No, more like fell to the ground somewhere near the fountain. Either that or there’s too much light bouncing off everything.” He tucked the device away and drew his stun gun.
Waters said, “Spark, keep an eye out for movement. Everyone spread out and surround the fountain.”
Guns at the ready, the squad fanned out. The room looked like a place people convened to eat and socialize. The floor lowered in tiers to the central fountain like the Acropolis back home. Stone benches lined the walls. Everything was covered in fallen rocks and dust. No blood or bones, no bullet holes or plasma craters. Outside there’d been skeletons and Necromonger uniforms full of bones. They’d have to go back and investigate the dead later.
There was nowhere to hide in or around the fountain. Guns leading the way, Pond exited the chamber via the back archway. Seconds later, he popped back into the room wearing a frown. No one can get out that way. Cave in.”
“And why are all of you searching for Furyans when you have one among you?” said a rich female voice.
Everyone faced the fountain. Riddick jumped back and let out a warning growl. “Water. Girl.”
Kenner put a protective hand on Riddick’s shoulder, then positioned himself between him and the fountain.
The voice said, “Please don’t shoot. I mean no harm.”
“Then show yourself!” Waters said. They trained their weapons on the fountain.
A portion of the cascading water arced father out as it fell into the pool, then it swirled upwards and filled out in the shape of a face with a curtain of hair. The watery head rose into the air, followed by a slender body full of sensual curves wrapped in a skin-tight dress. The face, neck, and arms took on human skin tones, the hair a rich black with a green sheen, and the eyes a deep ocean sapphire. The dress matched her eyes.
Waters kept expecting the woman’s hair to grow longer as the lady’s hair shimmered like a cascading waterfall. She shook her head to stop herself from staring and said, “Identify yourself and state your purpose for being here!” She kept her rifle trained on whatever it was exactly she was aiming at.
The lady smiled. “My name is Aquarion. I’m of the elementals from planet Quintessa. Like you, I came here seeking protection and answers.”
“How to defeat the Necromongers.” Aquarion drifted to the edge of the pool, then gracefully stepped up and out.
Riddick growled again. “Girl. No.”
“Our calculations brought me to Furya.” She sauntered over to Riddick. He bared his teeth but she just smiled. “Have you found other Furyans?”
“Not alive,” Waters said. “Now how can I trust that you’re not lying about being against the Necromongers?”
Aquarion considered her words a moment, then frowned. “You can’t. And how can you prove to me that you fear them as much as I do?”
“We don’t fear them. We’re trying to protect ourselves from them.”
“As are we.” Aquarion reached for Riddick’s forehead. He gave her another warning growl, giving her pause.
Kenner said, “Touch him at your own risk, lady.”
She ignored him. “It’s alright, young Furyan. I am an ally.”
She reached again and Riddick dodged and lashed out. Her arm up to the elbow became water, which elongated. A watery hand reached out and covered Riddick’s forehead. He stopped and stood there, eyes wide with confusion.
Waters aimed her rifle but hesitated. She’d just watched Riddick’s fist go right through Aquarion with no effect. Bullets would most likely yield the same results. She swapped her rifle out for a stun gun and hesitated again. If she shot the Elemental while in physical contact with Riddick, he’d get stunned too. But… considering how fast he’d–
Aquarion’s hand solidified then peeled away. She spoke just above a whisper. “Such delicate odds surrounding this one.” She backed away, giving Riddick a respectable amount of space.
Waters lowered her weapon. “What did you do to him?”
The Elemental faced her. “Read his memories. It’s my specialty as a water Elemental. This boy was born the same year the Necromongers came to Furya. He was strangled with his own umbilical cord and left for dead. Other Furyans took care of him for a couple of years, but they died. Now he’s as wild as the jungle he grew up in.”
“He’s rapidly learning how to be civilized.”
Aquarion laughed. “You don’t tame a Furyan. Have you never heard the stories?”
“No, but I’d rather hear them from a Furyan; not you.”
She gave Waters a conceding nod. “Understandable. How much of Furya have you searched? I’ve been here for days. He’s the first living one I’ve come across.”
“This is our first stop. Can you tell us anything about what happened here? How did the Furyans fight them off?”
Aquarion thought a moment. “Furyans are powerful. The Necromongers underestimated them.”
When the Elemental didn’t elaborate, Waters said, “That’s it? After all the conquering they did, they botched the job with Furyans?”
“I thought you wanted to hear the truth from a Furyan.”
“I do,” she said unhappily.
“And since this one has so few answers, may I take him off your hands?”
Kenner stepped closer to Riddick and tightened his grip on his rifle.
Waters said, “No. He’s still useful to us.” She crossed the room and stood beside Riddick. The kid shifted so one shoulder was protectively in front of her. Waters felt touched that he’d do such a thing, but at the same time she wanted to snap at him to stand down like he was one of her soldiers.
“I will respect your wishes,” Aquarion said, inclining her head. “I’ve scoured the planet north and east of here. For all I know they’ve hid underground. I lack the time and supplies to search much longer.” She studied Riddick. “Be careful with this one. The odds surrounding him are so delicate. You may come to regret taking him with you, but the rest of the universe may thank you one day.”
“What are you talking about with all this odds crap?”
“The Elementals have prophets among our kind. All of us run calculations based on their words and help restore balance wherever it tries to slip away.”
Waters narrowed her eyes. “Our world has seen its share of prophets and end-of-the-world predictions, all of said predictions turning out to be a load of crap. I can’t say otherworldly prophets would carry much weight back home.”
“That is also understandable,” Aquarion said with a soft smile.
“We make our own futures by directing our energies towards the desired outcome.”
“Then we are the same, but with different approaches. And in the name of such things, I must continue my search. Farewell.” Aquarion stepped into the pool and her formed turned into water. The water that was her head roped to the crystal above the fountain, then trailed along a light beam, casting rainbows all over the room. Her form poured through a light hole and vanished without leaving a drop behind, letting the fountain’s cascade to fill the silence.
Pond said, “What? Too good to use the door?”
“Guess so,” Markham said.
“Everyone head back out,” Waters said. “We’re gonna collect a couple of corpses for autopsy, then search other civilizations until fuel levels tell us to turn around and go home.” She holstered her stun gun and led the way out.
With aid of protective gear, the squad collected one Necromonger and one Furyan corpse. They bagged and sealed them tightly so there’d be minimal stink on the ship by the time they were delivered to morticians on Earth. They also gathered abandoned weapons that belonged to both sides. Riddick watched them somberly. It was hard to tell what he was thinking and feeling. How much of all this did he understand? Spark kept a constant watch on him, but the kid didn’t look like he was planning his escape anymore. Still, for all they knew, he was trying to lure them into complacency so he could sneak off when no one was looking.
* * *
Waters piloted the ship into the sky as Kenner plotted out a course on the screen next to her. Pond and Markham manned gunner stations just in case, and Riddick was strapped into a passenger chair with Spark keeping him company. The kid was wild-eyed but fighting to keep his composure while he maintained a death grip on his shoulder straps.
Waters leveled out the ship at 30,000 feet, locked it on course to the civilization an hour away, then told Kenner to keep an eye out just in case their GPS missed anything during the initial sweep hours ago. Kenner made himself comfortable. Waters unbuckled her seatbelt and headed for the passengers chairs.
Spark had his chair swiveled around so he was facing Riddick. With aid of two buttons in the headrest, Waters swiveled around the one next to him and locked it in place, then flicked open a flap in the floor and stepped on a button. “Watch yourselves.” A sheet of stainless steel rose out of a thin opening between the chairs, stopped at her eye level, then split into halves and formed a table. She took a seat and propped herself up on the table with her elbows.
Riddick stared in open wonder at the table and slowly relaxed his death grip.
Spark patted the stainless steel. “Table.”
“Table.” He patted his straps, then unlatched the chest buckle. “Belt.” He patted his chair. “Chair.” He looked at Waters’ chair, thought a moment, then got up and stood behind the one next to him. He looked out the pilot window. “Flying. No,” he said with a shake of his head. He began feeling around the sides of the headrest.
Spark laughed. “It’s not for everyone. You say, ‘flying no.’ Now say, ‘I don’t like flying.’”
Riddick paused in his search. “I don’t lie fy-ing?”
“I don’t like flying,” he said slower.
“I don’t like flying?”
“Right.” He fished out a package of dried fruit from the compartment under his seat. “I like food.” He popped a few pieces into his mouth and held out the open bag.
“Food.” Riddick sniffed the air as he stuck a hand in the bag. He ate a few pieces and nodded approvingly. “Food. Yes.”
“Say, ‘I like food.’”
“I like food.”
“I don’t like flying.”
“I don’t like flying,” Riddick agreed, then eyed the bag. “I like food.” He reached for seconds, then turned back to the chair and pressed one of the buttons. The chair swiveled. Riddick pressed the other and locked it in place. He plopped into it and studied Waters thoughtfully. “I like girl.”
The men laughed and Spark smirked. Waters felt herself go red. She shook her head. “Don’t corrupt the kid.”
“Good luck with that one, Riddick,” Kenner said over a shoulder. “The Jade Dragon is unobtainable. Many have tried. All have failed.”
His tone was genial but the words still bit into Waters. They placed a magnifying lens over her single status. That and Riddick’s behavior tugging at her maternal instincts made her realize how much of that side of herself she’d buried under being a workaholic. She didn’t regret any of it though. She loved her job and the good she accomplished. The military and her country needed her.
“I’m not trying to corrupt him,” Spark said. “That’s all Pond’s idea.”
Pond spun around in his chair. “Gee, thanks. It’s not like any of you tried to stop me during his first vocabulary lesson.”
Waters snapped out of her brooding. “What a good point. All of you deserve punishment when we get home.” The men voiced protest but she quieted them with a raised hand and wicked smile.
Spark dug out a piece of dried fruit. “Thanks a lot, Flower Boy.” He leaned forward so Waters’ head wasn’t blocking his view, then he chucked it at Pond. Riddick intercepted it and popped it in his mouth. Spark blinked. “Those are some impressive reflexes you’ve got there, kid.” Riddick gave him a blank stare.
Those most certainly were. That feat, couple with his recovery from the stun gun rounds and his quick uptake on English, gave Waters the feeling that she and her squad were beginning to see why Furyans had put up such a fight against the Necromongers. She retrieved a tablet computer from under her chair and began drawing up a report on what she’d gathered so far. Spark handed over the dried fruit to Riddick, then collected his fang and began cleaning and polishing it while holding it clamped between his knees. Riddick wolfed down the snack while observing everyone.
* * *
None of them were surprised when the second civilization came up empty, minus the abundance of skeletons and ruined spaceships. Just to be thorough, they performed two different thermal sweeps, x-ray, sonar, and electromagnetic scans, and even a mineral scan to check the ground for manmade layers under the dirt and limestone. Every last scan came up with nothing. Absolutely nothing. The squad physically searched the ruins for clues and artifacts to study back on Earth, too. They took a few pieces of old technology that looked all Furyan but beyond that there were no further answers; just one big puzzle and Riddick as the lone survivor. And what were the odds of them finding him like that anyway?
Oh, god. Odds. Now Waters was beginning to sound like Aquarion. She plugged in the global coordinates Kenner read to her, then set the ship back in auto pilot and returned to the task of teaching Riddick more English.
* * *
Four days and dozens of fruitless stops later, the squad gathered at the collapsible table with Riddick seated among them. They all felt worn down and haggard after getting short bursts of sleep between flights. It’d been necessary for the sake of fuel use. Riddick was the only one who didn’t look worse for wear. The perks of youth… Or being a Furyan, perhaps.
“That was our last stop,” Waters said. “Our last attempt. Riddick is the only Furyan we have to take back.”
Pond said, “I remember what you said to Aquarion but is he really worth it?” He stood behind Riddick’s chair. “I mean we’re taking him from his home and simple life, and he seemed happy enough without our intervention. Is it morally right for us to kidnap him like this?”
“Those are valid questions, Pond. They’ve been on my mind as well.”
“I think it’d be cruel to leave him alone like that,” Kenner said from behind Waters. “It would’ve been different if we’d found others, but the reality is we’d be leaving him to sleep in trees and worry about getting eaten, and wondering where and when he’d get his next meal.”
“Right,” Markham said. He was seated next to Riddick as he studied Waters’ report on the tablet. “But morally right or not, we have to take him. We’d be stupid not to. Besides, the Necromongers are still out there, crusading from world to world. It’s inevitable that they’ll discover Earth one day. Bringing Riddick will better prepare us for that.”
“I agree,” Waters said. “Even if it’s just this morsel of intel, it’s better than nothing. Furya’s the only world that hasn’t gone down like the others. We’ve only begun trying to answer why and how that happened. We have to find a way to stop them.” The rest of the squad voiced their agreement. Waters folded her hands on the table and took a deep breath. She tried to put herself in the kid’s place and guess how it’d feel to leave your home planet and everything you knew. Frightening. Daunting. Maybe even a little exciting. “Riddick,” she said formally.
“Your life is about to get very interesting.”