Well, here we are, with the start of the second fic in my "Seer" series, revised version. I have to extend a lot of thanks to Lynx for beta-reading for me and catching at least some of my 'oops'es. Also, thank you to everyone who reviewed, alerted, and favorited Faint Premonition. Your feedback means a lot to me.
So, without further ado, welcome to...
A Matter of Instinct
A Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury Alternate Universe
I looked over my shoulder when Docking Pilot Carolyn Fry moaned, peering around the back of the co-pilot's couch and past the young girl calling herself 'Jack.' The poisoned woman had gotten more vocal in the last few hours, but showed no sign of regaining consciousness. Given that she'd been out for nearly the entire week we'd been in the skiff, I doubted she would recover at all.
The last time I'd checked the blonde's grue-inflicted wound, the black tendrils of venom-killed tissue covered more than half her back. I didn't say anything aloud, but it seemed that the other ten crash survivors realized what I did.
Twelve of us, including the former pilot, crowded the little emergency skiff. Our food and water supplies had gotten low, and the oxygen scrubbers whined faintly with impending failure. Frighteningly little time remained before things would start to fall apart, but my gut said a ship would pick us up before time ran out. Not what kind of vessel, nor what sort of people would be aboard it, but a degree of rescue was all we needed. I'd trusted my gut instincts completely for nearly fifteen years— since my adoptive parents gave me the torn-off, tear-stained paper that had been tucked into the blanket wrapped around me when they found me on their doorstep.
A subtle glance to my left at the big man in the pilot's seat warmed me. Riddick, I believed, was another survivor of the massacre my birth mother's letter had mentioned. The first person I'd ever met who had senses as finely tuned as mine. A convicted killer with a rap sheet longer than I am tall. Not the kind of person a good criminologist should want to be around, but I had to admit, if only to myself, that I was falling hard for him.
The skiff rocked with an impact, jolting me out of my thoughts. Jack nearly fell onto the console between the two chairs, while the youngest of the three Muslim boys cried out. Red lights began flashing on the boards around me.
"Warning: hull breached." The masculine voice of the computer sounded irritatingly calm. "Engines operating at one hundred ten percent of capacity." In other words, we'd been snagged by something or someone. Next to me, blunt fingers danced over the controls. "Hull breach contained. Engines operating at one hundred seventy percent of capacity." The vessel vibrated madly as its power plants strained. "Engine and hull failure imminent under current parameters."
"No shit." Shazza's flat voice telegraphed disgust and unease. She'd been restless since her sprained ankle quit bothering her. I met wide hazel-green eyes with my own steely blue and tried to reassure the girl who obviously looked up to me. Beads clicked in the back, accompanied by a whispered, indistinct prayer.
"Critical systems failure in five seconds. Four seconds. Three seconds." Riddick flicked all but two system power toggles, leaving only life support and artificial gravity on. "Two seconds. One second." Lights cut off and the hum of engines died as he pushed his wraparound sunglasses up onto his forehead. Elbows on armrests, he steepled his fingers and turned luminous silver eyes on the only English-speaking youngster.
"First you're a boy, then you're a girl, and now you're a psychic." Oh joy. We'd been tagged by mercenaries, he was thinking, people who got a kick out of hunting down other people for money. Scum, the whole stinkin' breed. "Careful what you wish for, Jack." She flashed him a saccharine smile, then looked up as the comm crackled to life.
"Unidentified craft, state your purpose and contents." A male voice, words clipped, sounding like he had a big, fat stick rammed up his ass. I leaned forward to key the mike on the board.
"We're survivors of a wreck, Hunter-Gratzner, New Oslo Shipping Company. Captain and navigator were killed in the crash, docking pilot was injured and is sicker than a damned dog. We'd appreciate a lift to the nearest spaceport."
"And who am I speaking to?"
"Name's Bergenhaus, I work for Meyer, Meyer, and Trent. Was traveling on business." The convict arched an eloquent eyebrow at me, and I mouthed the word 'later.' A long pause had me nibbling my lower lip nervously.
"Very well. Prepare to dock." Once I'd made sure the pickup was off and would stay that way, I touched his too-still hand lightly. Suspicion tightened his eyes.
"My business is their survival." My barely-audible whisper lessened the sudden tension between us. "And, preferably, your freedom." Struck by whimsy, I grinned. "From the government and the penal system, at least." He squinted, then snorted, leaning back and relaxing a hair.
"Pushy woman." Not that he sounded too unhappy about it.
"If these people are more of Johns' ilk, why would they help us?" Paris made a valid point. So he'd caught the meaning of the big guy's comment to Jack.
"Prob'ly voice recognition software on their comms." I easily picked up where Riddick was headed with his comment.
"MM&T goes after any merc they can build a solid case against. I've only been part of the team for a few years, and didn't travel, but I've helped turn around some high-profile cases. Mr. Trent might have been willing to do anything to get me out in the field within a year, had things not… changed." I hit the release, sliding the couch away from the console, and stood, gathering up the armor plate that I'd hung on its back and buckling it on.
"Cripes." Zeke looked over at his wife, eyes wide. "An' your dad, love…"
"Would do anything to get me out of the hands of people like these." The heiress sounded less than pleased, with reason. "I'm not goin' quietly. They wanna mess with a Montgomery, then—"
"Then you'll hang on to my gear for me and let the killers do the fighting." With one hand, I lifted my duffel and pushed it at the brunette. It held several weapons, including my rifle, as well as my comm system from work, my hygiene kit, and the now-empty second duffel I'd brought. She staggered, surprised by my action. "The same two men taught us both, and I am fully prepared to kill as many of these merc scumbags as necessary." The imam was scowling, and I shot him a glare. "The first man I killed was a rapist and a murderer who intended to make me his next victim." He jerked back, eyes wide.
The little vessel jolted again as I checked that my twin daggers, sheathed in the plate on my back, moved freely. We slewed around on the tether, briefly bringing the larger ship into view: huge, silvery-white, with accents of gold and purple. The bounty hunters aboard it had to be ridiculously successful to afford such a gaudy mobile base of operations. Then we stared out into space again.
Cool green walls crept in from the edges of the viewport, gradually revealing bay doors that shut swiftly and moved in once we'd cleared them. Some sort of equipment grabbed the skiff and straightened it relative to the surrounding structure. We could only wait for their next move.