Thanks be to Vin, David and the gang over at Universal- they obviously had the right idea and I'm just shuffling my feet behind them.
I'm not myself these days. I don't read half as many of the books that come my way that I would like. I don't trade, I don't fight and I don't pilot anymore. I just think. Whole days gone spent thinking and remembering names that haven't been said in years. Faces that dried up and blew away in clouds of ash before half the adults on this colony were even born. In the Guild days they kept your age in two places- in Cryogenus Shipment files that we called "Cryo Bios", and somewhere called "Paper". One told the truth of your age, and the other was an approximation to make the star-jockeys feel a little more spry.
If a lifetime can be recorded twice, can it belived twice?
All the best stories always end with heroes flying off into the sunset- the worst ones keep going long after the victory has passed.
When that pod cocked up and fired off into space I figured us for saved- all heroes because we survived. It was the closest thing I ever got to religion, that day and night after our escape from the black planet- still smelling of the blood of other things. He never said a word, not once for the three weeks between stars. He draped himself in the captain's seat and watched the blackness roll over us, under our feet, by our shoulders. He ate when there was food, he slept when his shift came. When the Merc ship sucked us in he made sure we lived, and said nothing of the blood on my hands afterwards.
I never meant to cry in front of him, tried hard to keep those tears hidden in a cryo-bed pillow, but he still knew. Maybe he could smell the salt or see the dry tracks on my cheeks in the morning, but he never said a word.
When we'd put enough time and distance between us and everything that had happened he touched the skiff down and traded the gilded tin can for boots, food and three seats on three cargo ships docked above the planet.
We stood clutched together in the middle of a space station promenade, clean, dressed, and hollow eyed. I shifted my shoulders in the stiff cloth of a cast-off jump suit, rubbed the short growth of hair at the crown of my head.
He clutched wrists with Imam, bowed, said goodbye. I watched him- the skin at the corners of his eyes gathered secretly when he was hugged close in the older man's good arm. I rubbed dry lips with an absent finger and waited for him to move those few inches and pull me in. I wondered if I would cry, or if he would.
He turned his back and walked to the brothel a few yards away.
"Come my girl," the cleric was quiet, but pulled my shoulders.
"Where's he going?"
"Putting distance between we three to keep us safe. It is the best we can ask of a man like him."
The best we can ask. The best anyone could ask of a killer who can smell the tender places to stab a knife. The best to ask from an animal like Riddick.
When he left me on that street I hated him. I burned furiously to go after him, drag him from the brothel and put my own knife in his eye. He left Imam, but he abandoned me