Chapter 9: Hiding Hibiscus
Mist crowded in around them, cold in its undulating evanescence, almost thick enough to touch. She lazily lifted a hand, her head fogged and chilled. In this dreamlike state, she thought she was flying, floating on the frigid mist.
"We meet again. Go back to sleep. We're not there yet."
It was Riddick, but not Riddick. It was that animal side he'd revealed only in cryo. She'd met this side of him before and she'd been intensely intrigued by it. It was dangerous, malicious, but somehow irresistibly alluring.
"I don't want to," she sleepily protested. "How can you be both sleeping and awake?"
"The same way you can," the harsh, growling tone replied, punching the dosage button.
"But I'm not-"
Leilani fought to stay awake, protesting the entire time, but the concoction of tranquilizers and cold prevailed a mere second later.
Awareness crept slowly into Leilani's mind, an effervescent being in and of itself. It slithered through the caverns and passages of her consciousness, whispering of wakefulness. She began to recognize it and with that recognition came the awakening of her senses. The chill of the cryo fog had begun to thaw, raising goose bumps across the expanse of her flesh. The whoosh of the oxygen generators had fallen silent leaving a silence so deep, she could hear her own blood rushing through her ears. A new sound emerged from the deafening roar in her ears a moment later. She could hear Riddick's breathing, steady, deep, and slow. Then she could hear his heart. No, not hear it. Feel it. Next to hers, it thudded a slow, strong cadence of life.
"Are you awake?" the deep baritone voice asked in a low whisper.
Leilani opened her eyes. The fog had all but disappeared. She was aware that they were both naked. She suddenly burned every place his skin touched hers. Her face flushed and she abruptly separated herself from him.
The cryo tube doors swished open, warmth flooding in and bathing her body in its gentle ambiance. She looked at Riddick before crossing the threshold.
"Where did you say you were from?" he asked her, the look on his face registering anxious curiosity with that feral quality only he possessed.
"I was born and raised on Helion Medialis. Never left the place."
"What about your parents? Where were they from?"
"They are from Helion Medialis as well. Born and raised. Why?"
"You're certain of this?" Riddick asked, swiftly closing the gap she'd created between them.
"Have you seen your birth certificate?"
"Yes. What kind of stupid question is that? Why does it matter?"
"There are only three types of humans who can register both conscious and unconscious in cryo sleep. One is the Gematrians on the outskirts of Gamma quadrant—but they're staunch recluses and don't even have a home planet. The second is the gypsy-like clan from Earth called the Eyes of Anubis. They're extinct. They died out after Earth's sun burned out. And the third—well, we both know what that is. I don't think you are who you say you are. Probably no fault of your own—but I think your parents might know. I think you'd better hope they either adopted you, or that they aren't Furyan. If they are Furyan, they're probably dead by now."
Leilani struck him. "Don't you say that. Who the hell are you to question my ancestry? You know nothing about anything but yourself. You care nothing for no one but yourself."
Tears stung her eyes as she bolted towards the bedroom. She wasn't quite sure what her punishment would be for her bad behavior, but at this point she didn't care. If her family was dead because of Riddick, she'd kill him.
Riddick followed, his cheek stinging. He hadn't expected the blow, though he guessed he should have after making such accusations. Well, no, they weren't accusations. They had to be truths. How else could she wake up during cryo sleep? No one did that. No one but Furyans and Gematrians. Gematrians never came close to the Helion system. They abhorred organized religion different from their own, and the Helion system was rife with religious zealots much opposed to the Gematrian way of life. Especially with the Necromongers in town.
"Leilani, listen to me," Riddick stated in an imperious tone as he entered the bedroom.
"If my family is dead because of you-"
"Because of me? Whoa, wait a minute-"
"No, you wait a minute. If those damned Necromongers kill my parents because I ran off with some Furyan rogue-"
"They wouldn't kill them because you ran off with me, Leilani. They'd kill them because they're Furyan. And that is a giant stretch. I'm supposed to be the last one. I highly doubt they're Furyan. Though I'm becoming to be a believer that you are. Explains a lot about you. Maybe you were adopted and they never told you?"
"I'm not a Furyan and I'm not adopted."
"How do you know?" Riddick prodded, stepping up to her and taking her in his arms.
"Because my family has been prominent on Helion Medialis for the past three hundred years. When it was a monarchy, they were Lords under the King. I know that I am not adopted because when I was eight, my parents nearly divorced over the issue of my mother's ten year affair with another man. My father demanded a paternity test."
"He's my father. Not the man with whom my mother had her affair."
Riddick looked into her eyes, trying to discern whether or not she was telling the truth. He came to his own conclusion after a few moments.
"Nice try," he said with a mocking smile, "But Helion Medialis never had Lords. So, while the adopted possibility is out, there's still the question of your ancestry."
Leilani smiled in return. "If I were Furyan, the Necros would have killed us a long time ago. I spoke with a purifier shortly before you defeated Lord Vaako. He would have known what I was, even if I didn't."
Riddick laughed. "You're so cock sure of yourself. But you're wrong. I spoke with a purifier, too. He knew there were others. How did he know? Because he was a Furyan himself. If it was the same purifier, which is pretty much beyond a shadow of a doubt, he'd have spared you, knowing that I was still in existence."
"I'm not a Furyan."
"You could be."
Riddick released her and walked over toward the bed where he stretched out before lying on his side facing her.
Leilani blushed. He was so comfortable with himself that she envied him. Then again, any man who possessed a body like that should have no problems strutting around in full naked glory. She wasn't comfortable with her own body, though in his presence, she didn't quite feel so—what was the word? Inferior? No, that wasn't it. Well, he made her feel beautiful. Stunning, even. He'd treated her like a goddess, in his own feral way.
What if he was right? What if by some insane twist of fate or reality or whatever anyone wanted to call it—what if she was a Furyan? She couldn't be. Furyans were warriors. They were fierce. They were indomitable. What was she? She wasn't a warrior by any stretch of the imagination. She was a writer. An artist. She wasn't fierce at all. Quite the contrary—she was as fierce as a newborn kitten. And indomitable? While she had quite the stubborn streak, Riddick had proven otherwise. He'd quite dominated her, hadn't he?
"You're thinking about it."
"What?" Leilani asked, startled from the depths of her perturbed thoughts.
"You're contemplating the fact that you might really be Furyan."
"I am not. Riddick, I'm about as much of a Furyan as Dame Vaako."
Riddick laughed at this. "With the way she acts, I have no doubts she's one too. Or at least was."
Leilani released an exasperated sigh. "How long til we reach Hibiscus, Sherlock?"
"Ugh, you really should read more," Leilani said, throwing up her hands.
"I read," he replied indignantly.
"Not enough," Leilani retorted.
He glowered at her but said nothing. Leilani threw up her hands again and walked into the bathroom. Riddick left her alone while she quickly showered. She returned to the bedroom after to find him reading something on the enormous screen that served as the window in the bedroom.
"What's that?" Leilani asked, pointing directly at the screen.
"I'm reading," Riddick tersely replied.
"No...No...that!" Leilani cried, just as the screen lit up and flames licked along the outside of the ship's protective barriers. The ship listed hard to starboard, sending Leilani flying into the wall and Riddick off the bed.
"Fuck!" he cursed, snatching a pair of cargo pants and donning them while running to the cockpit.
Leilani rolled onto her back, hardly able to breathe, and stars burst white in front of her eyes. "Ow," she grunted as she sat up, and another missile slammed into the ship. She rolled with it this time and slammed into the dresser. She used the dresser to stand and quickly pulled some clothes out. She donned them as Riddick whipped the ship around to face their attackers. Leilani then raced to the bridge.
"Where the fuck have you been?! Sit down, strap in, and man those damn guns!" Riddick barked at her.
"What guns and how?" Leilani shouted back at him, strapping the harness over her shoulders.
"Grab that stick. Rotate it a couple times. Watch the HUD. It'll show you where you're aiming. Compensate for their speed. Aim for the engines if you can. Press the red button on top with your thumb to fire," Riddick fired off the instructions, using the joystick in front of him in the exact same fashion as he'd told her to do.
Leilani grabbed the stick with both hands and started to rotate it. Surely enough, a little red circle with crosshairs showed up and she used it to target the enormous Necromonger ship that had engaged them.
"Fire! Fire dammit!" Riddick yelled.
Leilani started hammering on the little red button on the top of the stick as fast as she could. Her set of guns wasn't firing rapidly like Riddick's was, it was firing much more volatile munitions.
The first set of explosions rippled in space around the Necromonger ship, but the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth punctured its defenses and explosions rocked the Necros' hull. In a brilliant flash of light, the whole ship erupted.
"Shit, hold on," Riddick said, banking the ship hard and high, the boosters engaging and slamming Leilani back in her seat so hard she couldn't breathe.
They didn't get out of the blast radius swiftly enough, and it sent their ship in a wild spin. Leilani closed her eyes while Riddick fought with the controls. After what seemed like years, he evened the ship back out. Leilani leaned forward and undid the straps, then ran over to the sink in the kitchenette, where she dry heaved for several moments. The fifth or sixth time her stomach lurched, she coughed up blood.
"Oh that can't be good," she weakly managed, sliding down to sit on the floor.
"Nice shootin' ace!" he bellowed, coming to a sliding halt on his knees next to her. Then he saw the blood on her lips. "Shit. What happened?"
"I don't fuckin' know," Leilani coughed again, wincing and instinctively gripping her right side.
He grunted and lifted her shirt, then sighed when he saw the enormous bruises beginning to form over her ribs. "C'mon kid. Med bay, now." He hauled her to her feet and helped her to the med bay.
Leilani scooted up onto the table while Riddick calibrated the scanner that hovered over her. It lowered and the tiny lasers started scanning.
"There it is. No internal bleeding, maybe nicked a lung," Riddick said after a moment. "Got a cracked rib though, kid."
"All right! More battle scars," Leilani wheezed as she sat up, gingerly holding her side.
"That's the spirit," he rumbled.
"Right... So... What the hell was that and how did they find us?" she said, following him back to the cockpit.
"I don't know, but I think Hibiscus is out. Plan B."
"And Plan B is...?"
"Run like hell."
"Gr-ay-ay-ate," Leilani 'hmphed' as she sat down and strapped back in.
Particles and chunks of the ship burned all around them, suspended like tiny whizzing fireflies in the zero gravity of space. Leilani replayed the events of the last few moments in her mind and realization of what she had done slammed into her.
"I wasn't firing bullets," she whispered after a few moments of silence. Riddick was tapping away at the console in front of him and brought up star charts on the giant HUD.
"No, some of those were EMP missiles, and the last two you fired were mini nukes."
Leilani's stomach turned and she almost retched again. "How many people were on that ship, do you think?"
"50, 60 maybe," Riddick distractedly replied, tapping on a star cluster and investigating it. He nodded to himself and set the course before turning to look at her. "Hey—hey-"
Leilani doubled over against the harness and held her head in her hands. "I'm a murderer."
"No." His tone was harsh. "No you're not. They would have killed both of us."
"Not all of them wished us harm."
"No, but enough of them did. You nailed them perfectly. Blindsided them. They didn't see that coming. You kept us alive, darlin'. Give yourself some credit and don't worry about them."
"How can you be so...cold? Those were lives... They had families..."
"No they didn't. They were Necro soldiers. Think about it for a second," he curtly said. "They don't give a shit about life."
Leilani looked over at him, then back out at the aftermath of the battle. Riddick hit the shutters on the outside of the HUD and they quickly slammed shut, removing the scene from her view.
"C'mon. We gotta eat and then go back to cryo. We're heading for Gamma."
Leilani followed him into the kitchen and sat on the counter while he cooked. "Gamma?" she asked after a moment. "But that's not a...friendly place."
"They won't bother us, and they'll attack any Necro ship to come within 10 light years."
"You hope," Leilani sarcastically stated. "I just got out of fucking cryo. I don't want to go back in it."
"We might not have a choice, kid."