a/n: Okay, when I started writing "The Things We Leave Behind" a year or so ago, I intended it to go a very different direction. My original thought was that Riddick was going to have gone into cryo and woken up in the med center on some private archeological site. Jack wasn't anything special in that draft; her special snowflakeness didn't come to me until much later. After, unfortunately, I started writing the story, or it would have gone a bit different. This would have been about five chapters in. I don't have any use for this these sequences any more, but I just re-read them and they ain't that bad. Though they're not . . . subtle. Thought I'd post them if there's any interest, even though they're now disconnected from the main story.
I recognize that the cold I have, and the cold medicine, may be impairing my judgment.
I'm fighting some fucking thing and I keep loosing count of how many tentacles it's got. Do know it's got five mouths crammed with teeth. Been fighting it forever. There's something I'm supposed to do when I finish, but I can't remember what any more.
It tricks me. We roll off a cliff and I'm falling, all twisted up in tentacles and spikes and some get under my skin. Finally hit the water. My eyes open.
I'm in a room. Not on a ship. Dimly lit. I'm in a hospital bed. My clothes feel wrong. Greasy.
I sit up slowly. No one's around. I sniff the air. Not ship's air. Not good air. Lot of dead things in it. Can't smell Jack. Of course not. She's light years away, sleeping in her little tower room or twirling or doing whatever the fuck 13 year old girls do.
Sniff again. I've never been here before. I'm not injured. I check real fast. I'm not disarmed. I got my goggles. I just don't got my ship. Or my bearings. I stand up.
Gotta get out. Gotta find Jack . . . I swallow. No. I left her safe on New Mecca three days ago.
Three days before I went into cryo. On a ship.
Cryo. Right. Went into cryo and something went wrong. It could have been a long time ago.
Never mind. I can check up on her when I got out of here.
No. Gotta stay away from her.
No. Gotta make sure she's safe.
Deal with it later. Might as well try the door.
Before I get there, the door opens. Some guy comes in. No fear in him. Young, professional, a little shifty, utterly unarmed, slightly surprised. "You're awake already!"
I just stare at him.
The man smiles. "Sorry I wasn't here, I just didn't expect you to wake up so fast."
"Do you know who I am?" I finally ask, softly.
"Your ship says you're Cyrus Borson."
Cyrus Borson. The owner of the ship. The last man I killed. They thought I was that guy. Fun. "Where's my ship?"
"I don't know. You were here when I got here. I decided to wake you up. I'm Doctor Smith." Oh sure you are. He flushes, as if embarrassed about something. He sits down on the chair. Still no fear in him. "Look, something went wrong with your ship, and you were in suspended animation for a long time. Some folks brought you in. This was the nearest medical facility.
"The good news is that you're absolutely fine." The doctor hesitates, eyeing me carefully.
"The bad news?"
"We think you've lost about twelve and a half years. And you're, well, here."
I stare at him, not understanding. Twelve years? I was in fucking cryo for twelve years?
The doctor tries to comfort me, or something. "Look. It could be worse. You're on an . . . archeological dig. Ever hear of Invictus?"
Invictus. The unconquerable. It got smashed twice. I shrug. He prattles on. "Some rich folks set a bounty on anyone who could find information . . . well, they put out a shopping list. Some . . .private investors have moved in. Lots of cool stuff here. . You can contact your people, see if they can send enough money to refuel your ship. We already sent notice to your last port of call, so it might be taken care of. It's not a charity camp; until you leave, you'll have to work for your keep. Get script you can exchange for 'life's necessities.' You save up enough, you can cash out, leave, even if your folks are balky about frontin' the cash."
Huh. They sent word. I need to leave before that word comes back. "You thawed me out?"
"It wasn't cryo, but yes, close enough. I'd never seen one of those units before. Wanted to make sure you were okay."
"Anything wrong with me?"
"I don't think so. Just with your equipment, I think. They said your ship just kept going until it ran out of fuel. Fortunately, someone picked you up before you really did freeze, dropped you here."
Good Samaritans. I suppress a snort, barely, remembering all the Good Samaritans who didn't stop for me when I had Jack under my arm.
It's a day later and I'm still wandering through, listening. Like the guy said, could be worse. This place used to be some sort of pleasure planet or temple complex or some fucking thing. Got abandoned, once upon a time, when the old Empire fell. Now some "Company"' is lootin' it. Brute force of a thousand losers pawing through the remains like maggots on a corpse. Most of the stupid fucks they're usin' to do it are slaves and don't even know it. Owing more money to the company every year. Company treats 'em better than they have to, that's something. Some of the stupid fucks are thugs, preying on the rest of 'em. I've been here before on a dozen different worlds. Exactly the sort of place I never want Jack to see.
Not all that bad of a place for me to hide out. Except I gotta leave before that word comes back from New Mecca. If someone was smart enough to send a picture or DNA, they'll know I'm not Borson. And once they know that, they'll figure out who I am. Might link me to the old guy and Jack.
All right. Been here before, essentially. Figure out who's got the keys, charm them or kill them, and off we go. If that guy's not jerking me around, Jack's twenty five, twenty six. All grown up. Huh. Wonder if she remembers me?
Wonder what she'll think when I come through one of those stupid windows?
I snort at myself. She's all grown up. She don't live with Abu any more. I'll have new windows to crawl though. So to speak.
I lick my lips.
Jack. Why I'm stalling again, wandering around doing a fucking sociological survey of this place. Can't stop thinking of her. When I woke up, I was ready to swoop through those fucking windows and take her into the dark with me. But goddamn, it's been twelve fucking years. More. It really has. What if she doesn't want to go with me? What if she's a good person, on a good planet, with a good life? I gonna take her anyway?
I think I might.
'Cause I can't stop thinking of her.
Can't stop thinking on the fact she could have become fuckable. That's a thought that inspired me to tug one out, laying in some dead guy's bunk. Thinkin' of her coming apart underneath me. Thinkin' of her cumming . . .
Can't stop thinking of all the ways she could have died, could have been hurt, could have changed while I slept. And there's something else. What if I fucked it up? What if she followed me into the dark? What if she got taken into the dark? My bounty was big enough to make it worth snatching a street kid for bait, if Abu didn't do what he was supposed to do; make her a citizen of a civilization. She could be lost in the dark and I'm gonna spend the rest of my life fighting those fucking giant spiders, looking for her.
I need to know.
I need to not make dumb ass decisions when I find out. And as swoony as I am right now, I think I might.
I'm hoping this fixation's just a side effect of my fucked up cryo time. Went in thinking of her; came out obsessing. I'm hoping.
I go back to the doctor. Asked him to show me where to get kitted up. He takes me there, nervous. He doesn't like leaving the medical center. Interesting.
He's young. From the way he talks, he's used to talking down to poor working stifts. Thinks they're less than him. Thinks most people are less than him. Seems to think I'm something special. Good.
Got it. You're a little princeling, and there's other little princelings running this place. "Whatcha doin' here?"
He shrugs like it doesn't matter to him, pours himself another drink, tops mine off for me. "Brother inherited chairmanship. Family decided I should get a skill. Went to med school. Company was hirin'. They're open minded about the family business. I'll go back to it some day. Figure it's better to make mistakes here, rather than with the family assets." He leers a little at the last two words. I quirk an eyebrow at him.
He leans forward, all conspiratorial again. "You look like a man of the world."
I stifle a snort. This guy could be useful. "Seen a few things," I allow.
He takes another drink, whispers conspiratorially, "one of the oldest businesses in the books. We're slavers. Technically illegal most places, so we gotta be real careful with the merchandise. Deep cryo, control chips, real deep psychological shit on the girls so they just lay back and take it. Depending on what the client's into." He's eyeing me all hopeful. "My bother's always lookin' for good men to man the transports . . . "
Slaver. Huh. I blink at him. Smile. He grins back like we're friends.
Slaver. I'm gonna kill him slowly. If a guy like that had gotten his hands on Jack . . .
Let him babble. Finish the bottle, some stinky cheese and little crackers the guy offers up. He invites me to stay, but I just grin at him, say something vague about stopping in again. Go back to dead guys' bunk. Just a little excavated room they've taken over. There are barracks, but the rent would pay for a swank hotel room with one of Smith's girls out in the real world and I don't want my name on the list. Not gonna stay long with the dead guys' stink either, but I scavenge what I want. Go hunting for a hidey hole.
I go deep. Find a room that hasn't been excavated. No one's been there for a hundred years. The door is this huge metal thing that takes me some work to shift. Good.
Looks like some sorta wacky old church chapel carved outta rock. Huge ass baptismal pool carved outta rock; huge ass altar, also rock, stained, a huge ass wooden cross, and what looks like a bonfire pit, also rock. All four with shackles strategically placed around them. Evil. I like it.
It's got a closet or something. A little room carved to the side full of shelves with what look like prayer rugs on it, and a big assed trunk that I can't open easy. Decide I don't much care right now. There's even hot and cold running water. So to speak. A hot spring burbling up in the pool, a slow trickle of cold water from the wall seeping down. The water runs over, trickles down into to a drain at the foot of the altar. Convenient for washin' away the blood. Drain's covered by a grate. Lifts easily. Just about the right size to dump the body parts.
I use the bedding from the five kits to make myself a nest on the floor. Make it soft. Remember how much she liked soft.
Want her here.
I wake up alone and I'm not happy about it. Bad night. Kept dreaming of Jack. Jack, all grown up, arching under me. Jack, dancing with some asshole. Jack, tied to that altar, a little girl bleeding. That last one gnaws at me. Get up and run my hand over the fucking thing. The stains seem darker today.
The key to the chains is lying there right in the middle. Dunno how I missed it last night. I handle the shackles. Finally close them. They're small. Wouldn't go round my wrists and ankles. Don't like thinkin' about the sort of wrists they would go around. I pocket the key.
I piss down the drain. Lift it up and squat for a shit. Too small for me to slip down. I'm mixed on that, could be another way out. On the other hand, limits the size of what can come up. Put the grate back. No reason not to be neat.
I strip and step into the pool. Water's a little hotter than I like, but it feels good to be clean and warm, if slightly sulfurous smelling. The towels I scavenged are thin but good enough. I shave using a dead man's shaving cream, letting it all dissolve down the drain.
Take my time dressing. Leave nearly everything here, like I'm comin' back. Maybe I should. Maybe I am.
It's pitch black down here. Had barely noticed on my way down. Take a different route back up. Lots of places no person's been since the old empire imploded.
Something's tickling at me. Some smell. Some sound. Sounds. A struggle. It draws me. I find a little knot of thugs. They've got some girl – woman – woman, I think. Face a mess. She put up a good fight, I'm guessing, but she's stopped fighting by the time I get there. Eyes got that glassy look of someone who's a long way away and probably not coming back. Least they're taking turns.
One of them sees me watching them. Waves me over like he's in charge. He's had a turn and he's feeling magnanimous. "Girl pissed someone off," he offers. "Just business."
"Hm," I say, easing closer. I'm in their camp. Five bedrolls. Mess. Smell sunk in. The guy on the woman grunts and collapses. She makes a mad sound. Maybe not so far gone after all.
"'m Crustus." Mr. Ringleader says. Looks like he's gonna give me his hand to shake like we're gonna be business colleagues. Like I'm gonna touch him 'cept to gut him. He seems to sense something, scratches his ball sack with that hand. "You?"
"Walid," I say. It's a name. "What are you folks doin' down here?"
"You know. Layin' low 'till the government boys go." Another guy's crawled up the woman. She turns her head to look at the wall behind me.
"Hm," I say. "Heard somethin' about them. Know why they're here?"
"Lookin' for some guy. Some old criminal." The woman makes a noise. I look at her. "Riddick. Or Borson. They got a girl with them too."
Glad I'm looking at the woman. "Hm," I repeat. "Any profit in it?"
"For him," he snorts. "They say. I don't trust. Don't trust government boys, and these boys don't look right."
"How's the girl look?"
He shrugs. "Better than this one. Want a go at her?" Again, just to show me he's the big boy, he keeps talking. "We're gonna be slittin' her throat when we're done anyway. She pissed someone important off."
I pretend to think about it. There's a guy spent on the floor. There's the guy on the woman. There's a guy getting' ready for his turn. Another guy's had a turn and thinking of another, watching me from behind Mr. Ringleader. Mr. Ringleader who knows I want something.
"They say he's gotta kill someone," the guy says, offhandedly. My eyes snap to him. "Says they'll make him rich. Give him the girl."
I look back at the one on the floor. She's looking at me. I see something I don't like.
"They look like mercs to me," Crustus says, all confidential like. "'xept the one."
I take a step toward him. Hands low. "How so?"
"Uniform's a bit of a give away," he says, dryly. "And the fact he's stickin' real close to the girl. Like he's protecting her."
"She wanna be here?" I ask. They're all dead anyway.
"Doubt it. Head's down, hands cuffed behind her. Looks good. I'd kill someone to tap that."
I nod. Grin. Half turn to the woman. Smile. "Offer still stands?"
"Oh yeah," he says, relieved. Her eyes go hard, distant. She'd had hope for me. "Once my boys're done."
"Fair enough." I make like I'm adjusting myself. Like I'm hot for her. Mr. Ringleader's looking at my crotch, not my hands, don't see the shiv. One twist, one slash cross the jugular, he's gurgling. His buddy comes up fast, clumsy. Hit the throat again, just to see if he was watching. He wasn't. He's down. Spent guy rolls up, I toss the shiv at his eye. He's down. Next guy in line's running down the hall. I let him. Spin, step, break the neck of the guy fucking. Almost drop him before remembering he's on the woman, decide to be a nice guy and shove him off her.
I look at her, thoughtfully. She's completely still, eyes on me. There's a spark in there after all. I cock my head. She gives me a nod. I nod back, turn to the guy with a shiv in his eye. He's pretty much dead. Pull it out, wipe it off, press it into her hand. Slide up the tunnel the way the last guy went.
Blood smell gets stronger. Woman's slitting throats. Good for her.
I follow the guy who bolted for a bit, but he drops down an air shaft and I'm goin' up. There's a rope ladder. Makes me think. Decide to cut it, just to be safe. He could double back. There's a wet sound; doubt he'll make it. If he does, and if he's smart, he'll let me forget him.
I hunt them down. Not hard; they ain't tryin' for stealth. They're wandering about two levels down from surface, where most of the lootin' is hot. Talking to lots of people. They want everyone to know they're looking for me. Mr. Dead Ringleader wasn't shitting about what they were saying. Stupidly easy to stay out of their line of sight here where most of the light's hand carried.
Huge group. I'm sorta flattered. Seven mercs. One soldier, and I think he really is one. Four company guards. And the girl. With her hands cuffed behind her and a soldier trying to stay between her and the rest of them. Well ain't that a picture.
But is she Jack? Age is right, if it's really been twelve, thirteen fuckin' years. Build's believable. Woulda thought she'd have more muscle on her, but maybe she got lazy. Having trouble getting a good whiff of her. If it's her, she's sure not the kid I left. That kid would have been cursing and wriggling and yelling for me. This one's all grown up with lots of hair falling around her face. Dead silent, staring at the ground. I smell tears and bruises but can't see none. She's dressed like a civilian with a real job. Like they snatched her off the street and brought her here.
I follow them. The leader keeps prattling on and on. I got it. Girl's bait. Or payment. They say they got a job. They ain't talkin' about slam. Yeah, right.
After about twenty minutes, merc-boys stops. Fairly well lit place where lots of tunnels dump. I fade into a side tunnel, circle, tryin' to get a good look at her. Find a picked over storage room with some holes in the wall. Get close.
"I'm beat," the lead merc announces brightly. Pulls out a bottle, takes a long drink. Her eyes follow it, longingly, like she's thirsty. Kinda pisses me off.
"Call him," he orders. She shakes her head. Weirdly, she tries to go to her knees, but soldier boy won't let her. He's holding her all tender like. It's pissing her off.
The merc grins at her. "Betcha know what's coming."
She's glaring at him. I can see her face clearer. She looks a lot like Jack should look, I'll give her that. The rest of the mercs look interested. The soldier looks sick. "Let me go," she mutters to him.
"Don't. I think the sound will carry better if she's on her feet." With a flourish, merc-boy pulls something from his pocket. A weapon? He points it at her, hits a button and she's screaming, body arched against the soldier. Pisses me off even more.
"Stop it," the soldier orders. He gets her into a lifeguard hold, takes a step toward the lead merc. "I said STOP IT."
Merc just snorts, hits another button and she's screaming more. The soldier reaches for the controller. Three weapons are leveled at him. Girl's not paying attention to the guy holdin' her; that tells me something.
Finally, the head merc hits something and her screams shut off like a bullet shuts off a light bulb. The soldier helps her slide to the ground. She curls into a ball, but I can hear her breathing, rough and raw, tryin' not to cry. She's hurt bad. Still, twelve guys with guns and a hostage are a lot, even if they're paying attention to the soldier. Start thinkin' angles.
The merc crouches by the girl. Pats her on the cheek. "So I'm thinking the problem might be me," he says. "That Riddick's feelin' shy about having your reunion in front of a bunch of strangers. What do you think?"
"Fuck you," she manages. He sighs, pulls out the controller again.
"Nah – nah. Your da the minister might be huffy about that," he grins. She whimpers. "So I'm thinkin'. Riddick was chummy with that slaver-doctor guy. Seemed to think he'd be droppin' in for tea in a day or two. Wanna stay with him? He seemed real interested in playing with you. Bet he really knows how to use your chip . . . "
She makes another small sound and suddenly I'm sick. They took her to see Doctor boy? Doctor boy's told her we were friends? Doctor boy was looking at her like something to play with? Fucker's gonna pay for that.
"Or maybe just leave you here. If he's around, maybe he'll say hi. You can tell him the deal."
Her eyes go wide. "I'll make you a deal. Uncuff me, go away, and if he finds me, I'll tell him whatever you want. I'll tell him everything."
He's playing with the controller. Her eyes are tracking it. She tries to sit up. He reaches for her chest, pinning her down. She groans. It's a throaty sound that goes right to my crotch. Surprises me.
He lets her go. Fishes a key out of his pocket. Shows it to her with a grin. Fishes something out from her shirt and my eyes lock on it. The little shiv I made in the skiff, left on Jack's dresser days ago. Twelve years ago. He unclasps it, slides the key onto the chain, reclasps it and tucks it back into her shirt. Walks around her, tucks the controller and something else into her front jeans pocket. "Leavin' you the key and the controller, and a message on a chip for Riddick. 'cause I'm a nice guy. And some water." He jerks his head towards a merc who pulls out a canteen. He grins, opens it up, holds her head so she can have a drink. Seals it and leaves it beside her. She groans again and tries to curl tighter into a ball. As she moves, the smell hits me hard. She's turned on. It's turning me on. What the fuck?
I get it. That controller doesn't just hurt. Wired to other systems. I get just a little more pissed.
He grins again. "So. What should I do? Leave you here or take you back to the doctor?"
She groans again and I'm so hard it almost hurts. Some of the other guys are shifting now, feeling it too.
"Leave her here," the soldier says. "With me. I'll take care of her."
The merc snorts, quirks an eyebrow and someone shoots the soldier. The girl closes her eyes.
"He's just stunned," head merc says. She gives him a withering look. There's clearly a one way relationship between her and soldier boy. Interesting. "We'll carry him back. Don't want anything to happen to him. Helios might get huffy." He pats her on the cheek, stands up. "We'll get out of your hair. Have fun!" One of the mercs slings the soldier over his shoulder and they head out. After pause, the company soldiers do too, leaving her on the sands. Leavin' me with a predicament.
I can still hear them. I go to her now, they come back, it could be a problem. But there she is, groaning on the ground, and I think she really might just be my little Jack all grown up. I can't leave her there, if she's my Jack. And even if she's not, my cock and my nose still have some very definite views. Christ she smells good.
She twists herself up on her knees. She's rolling her shoulders and I know what she's trying to do. I tried to teach her that; how to dislocate her shoulders; get her hands in front of her. Her shoulders are stiff; like she's been restrained for a long time. The thought of the little girl wincing as I take her through the moves cools me off some. She gets to her feet, still twisting. Trying to stretch. Smart. Smell's fading.
There's a sound. Four guys have doubled back. Shit.