Author's Note: Welcome! Those of you that know my work will recognize this as a rewrite of "The Things that Happen". Only it's got a shiny new title, and a much better storyline. While there are similarities, this story has become an entirely different creature since its outset. All I ask, dearest Reader, is that you have patience with the things you recognize, because this story is worth a read for all the new details.
Disclaimer: Everything Riddick-related is property of Universal Studios.
Richard B. Riddick paused just before plunging his knife into the beast meant for his dinner. Cocking his head to the side, he listened. Shit. That was a skiff, and it was headed his way. Leaving the animal, Riddick took off running, leaping over the deep crevasses that made up the dangerous fingerprint terrain of UV6, barely keeping one step ahead of the pursuing mercs. He had wondered when they would find him – now he had his answer.
The small ship chased Riddick across the treacherous landscape toward a set of caves, launching two nets before he ran between the giant stones. The third shot caught him; the barbed anchoring harpoon sinking deep into the flesh of his calf. He stumbled, falling to his knees and grunting in pain. Growling, Riddick yanked the long dart free and turned to face the skiff. It's on now. Lifting both arms to display a set of wickedly curved knives, he jerked his head to one side. Come and get me.
Then he was off, racing through the tight spaces and convoluted rock sculptures that made up the harsh features of his hideout. The skiff slowed its pursuit but kept following – time to try a different strategy.
Rounding a corner, Riddick concealed himself behind one of the giant standing rock formations and waited. As the mercs passed, he swung out and silently sliced through the tethers holding the two hanging gunners in place. The small craft stopped, hovering as the spotlights focused on the straps swinging in the biting arctic wind. Riddick smirked. Me – two. Mercs – zero. This might be fun after all.
With the crew inside the skiff distracted, Riddick swiftly climbed to a better vantage point on the top of the craft; from there, he could hear the mercs arguing between themselves. He recognized one of the voices – Toombs – and he hummed in anticipation of facing his old nemesis again. Grinning to himself, he felt the ship resume its movement and waited.
Riddick's next opportunity arose when a young man nervously clutching a gun poked his head out of the open hatch to survey the area – presumably searching for him. Riddick grabbed him by the shoulders and heaved him out of the skiff, dropping him to the snowy rocks far below. Then he swung himself silently into the cockpit, watching as Toombs set the skiff in hover mode.
"You made three mistakes." Riddick's voice came from the aft section of the ship, and he smirked as Toombs twisted sharply in his chair. "First, you took the job. Second, you came light. A four-man crew for me?" He snorted. "Fuckin insulting. But the worst mistake you made-" Riddick paused as the merc ripped at his harness and lunged forward, reaching… "Empty gun rack."
Toombs seemed to deflate as Riddick sprang forward. His hand closed around the other man's throat, slamming his head against the ship's ceiling. Toombs fell back in his seat, looking warily up at the convict.
"What's the bounty on my head?"
"Five hundred fifty k," Toombs muttered. Riddick paused.
"Who only pays five-fifty for Richard B. Riddick?"
"You haven't been such a hot commodity lately." A shiv appeared in Riddick's hand, ripping through the fabric of the merc's pants from knee to groin. "Hey, hey, hey, hey! Guy, guy! Easy! You're back on top now, since they caught her."
Without moving his blade, Riddick growled, "Caught who?" Who had taken his top spot on the most wanted list?
He frowned, puzzled, and pulled back for a moment. Jack? Then he gave himself a mental shake.
Toombs lunged forward again, but Riddick's knife was at his throat. "Whoa. Where you goin?" His voice was deceptively calm. "Last question – and you better get this one right, merc. Whose ship is this?"
Toombs grinned hopefully up at the larger man. "Mine?"
As Riddick cleared the atmosphere around UV6, he debated where to chart his course. It had been nine years since he had dropped the holy man and the kid off on Helion Prime; maybe it was time to check in on them. Jack was what – twenty? Twenty-one? I wonder if she even remembers me…?
Doors clanged and animals growled as three prison guards shoved a rolling metal box into the holding pen. "Act like an animal and I'm gonna slot ya up like one," one of them shouted over the roars of the hell hounds. Kyra cringed at the echoes bouncing crazily around the room.
"This one is always trouble," the biggest guard said in a thick, Russkiy accent. They shoved the box up against an empty cage door. "I knew it. I smell it." Kyra mimicked him from the relative safety of her box, wrinkling her nose and rolling her eyes.
Then, the two guards lifted the door and stepped back. They waited for a moment, but Kyra stayed crouched in the corner of the box, refusing to enter the cage. She knew what was coming next – and she might as well try and cause someone else some pain before they locked her up.
With a glance at one other and a sigh, the guards each grabbed a hammer with a sharpened end. Shoving the points through the ventilation holes in the box, they tried to force a dirty, pissed off Kyra from the transport container and into the cage. After a few jabs, she managed to grab the haft of one of the hammers, breaking the rusted metal and yanking it into the box with her. When the guards paused, she shoved the handle back out through the ventilation hole, catching the smallest one in the crotch. He bit back a curse.
Finally, the third man stepped forward, leveling his gun against the box. "Get in there," he growled, and she pouted. Aw. They don't wanna play.
Under the threat of being spread all over the inside of the tiny container, Kyra finally scrambled into the cage, turning immediately to slam her heavy boots against the door as it locked. The guards left, and the animals around her sent up a chorus of howls at the commotion.
"Can we shut the goddamn noise!" Kyra shouted desperately. For a moment, there was complete silence, and she relaxed back against the bars of the cage. Then the hell hounds started up again – growling, whining, barking. Forcing back tears of rage, she clenched her teeth and pressed her hands tightly over her ears. There was nothing she could do. Just have to wait it out.
The landing on Helion Prime was a bit bumpier than Riddick would have liked. But after taking care of the local authorities, he found himself coasting over the white sands and green waters that surrounded New Mecca. He set down and hid the ship as carefully as he could before making his way into the city.
While Riddick waited for his old acquaintance, he discovered that in the years since that hell planet, Imam Abu al-Walid had acquired himself a woman and a fancy house. Working on a new family to replace the old. Turning this information over in his mind, the convict made himself at home and began the work of shaving his face and head; the dreadlocks he had grown while in hiding were far too heavy for the New Meccan heat. He was just about finished when the holy man walked through the front door.
"Did you know all your doors were locked?" Imam al-Walid paused on the stairs, the familiar voice sending a shiver down his spine.
Riddick kept speaking as the older man searched the gloom for any sign of the convict. "Nine years ago, I took two people off that planet. A kid – Jack – who everyone else thought was a boy. And a holy man, searching for New Mecca." Riddick saw the other man's eyes dart toward the house's upper balcony. "Your wife – she's in the shower." Shined eyes glinted as he raised his eyebrows.
Emerging from the shadows, Riddick's ears caught the faint sound of something on the upper level. There was someone else – someone small… A quick glance revealed a young girl, gazing down at the scene through the balcony rail. "Riddick?" she asked quietly, rising from her crouch.
"Riddick." The heavily accented voice of the Imam's wife echoed her daughter's words, as she emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam. Tucking in the end of her turban, her hands reached out to grip the railing. The little girl moved toward the top of the stairs, her mother following close behind.
"And a daughter," Riddick mused, "whose name would be?"
"No!" The woman reached out and grabbed the young girl as Riddick moved to the foot of the stairs.
"If you have issue with me, you let it be with me. You need not know their names." Desperation filled al-Walid's accented voice. Riddick glanced over his shoulder for a moment, both irked and pleased at the holy man's fear. Then he turned his gaze back up the stairs as the little girl spoke.
"Ziza," she said. "My name is Ziza." Al-Walid sighed, and his wife's fingers tightened on the little girl's shoulders.
"Ziza," Riddick repeated, bracing himself at the foot of the staircase. Pleased that she wasn't afraid of him, he was strongly reminded of Jack. He turned to look at the Imam, forcing back a smile. "Cute kid."
"Did you really kill monsters?" Ziza asked, catching the adults off guard; they all looked at her. "The ones that were gonna hurt my father?"
He told her that? Riddick threw the holy man a questioning glance.
Al-Walid shrugged helplessly at Riddick's look. "Such are our bedtime stories," he offered. At that point, his wife succeeded in urging Ziza out of the room. Enough was enough. He hadn't come here to be social. Riddick pushed himself back from the foot of the staircase and turned to look at the holy man.
"We have some talking to do."
Night descended upon New Mecca before Riddick and Imam al-Walid found time to have their private conversation. Sitting out on the upstairs balcony, Riddick watched the holy man pace back and forth across the lights of New Mecca's skyline. He was also vaguely aware of Ziza, peeking at him through one of the ornately carved screens. Cute kid, he though again. Finally, Riddick closed the heavy outer door and turned to al-Walid.
"Where is she?" he asked, without preamble. The holy man turned sharply on his heel, startled by the question.
"She, uh -" al-Walid swallowed and leaned heavily against the rail. Riddick waited, steeling himself for bad news. "She went looking for you. People died. She went to prison." Riddick shifted in his seat at that, guilt stabbing through him. "I-I don't remember where." The Imam shook his head. "But it was a world so hot you could not survive on the surface."
"Crematoria." That was all he needed to hear. The kid didn't belong in slam, especially not a hellhole like that. Shit. Riddick stood and started back through the house.
"Young Jack, she thought of you as her older brother," al-Walid admonished, following after the convict. "She worshiped you."
"You were supposed to watch her," Riddick countered, descending the steps to the front door.
"She never forgave you," the Imam called after him, "for leaving, just when she needed you most." Riddick paused, an unfamiliar feeling twisting in his gut.
"She needed to stay away from me," he muttered. "You all do." And with that, he was gone, disappearing into the darkened streets of New Mecca.
Riddick's feet lead him away from the holy man's house, as the day he left her played over and over in his head.
The kid was finally sleeping when they set down in New Mecca. Instead of waking her, Riddick carried her through the terminal, cradling her surprisingly gently against his broad chest.
"She needs rest," he'd shrugged when the holy man sent him a questioning look.
The trio emerged from the spaceport into the blinding Helion sun. Riddick motioned that al-Walid should lead the way, following the older man through the city's winding streets. Eventually, they stopped in front of a crowded, run-down building.
"It is the local shelter," the Imam explained, as the trio settled into a patch of shade provided by the building's large porch. "We will stay here until the church can set up a house for us." He motioned for Riddick to set Jack down.
Riddick paused, uncertain. It was the smart thing to do – leave the kid with the holy man. But in that instant, he couldn't quite bring himself to let her go. Fucking ridiculous, he thought, staring down at the sleeping girl in his arms. Hand her over and get the hell outta Dodge. He just couldn't quite…
Finally, Riddick gave Jack a light squeeze and laid her down on one of the long benches that lined the shelter's porch; she stirred a bit but didn't wake. "Watch her, holy man," he rumbled, then disappeared into the crowded New Meccan streets without looking back.
Lost in his own thoughts, Riddick wasn't paying attention to his surroundings. Mistake. Familiar noises startled him from his reverie; boots stomping through the dust, the jingle of chains – the sounds of mercs. Riddick cocked his head to the side and raised an eyebrow. Well, that's one way of getting to see the kid, he thought with a grin.
Riddick stopped in the center of the dusty street, letting his tail catch up. There was only one merc this persistent. "Let me guess," he rumbled when they were within earshot. "A five-man crew this time."
"Couple of things you could have done better." Toombs' voice rasped from behind the convict, mimicking Riddick's earlier speech. "First, trash the locator beacon inside my ship – the one you jacked. And second – and this is really the more important part," the merc paused – probably for dramatic effect – "dust my dick when you get the chance." The rest of his crew materialized out of the darkness, surrounding him. "Any questions?"
"Yeah." Riddick turned and held out his hands. "What took you so long?"
Toombs turned and nodded a cue to one of his crew. A woman, Riddick noticed, his eyes sparking with interest behind his goggles. She moved forward, brandishing a pair of handcuffs. "Let's go, big boy," she said, snapping the restraints around his wrists.
The mercs led Riddick to their skiff – bigger than the one he'd stolen. They loaded him into the restraint chair, securing his arms away from his body. Then, the crew turned their attention to clearing Helion Prime's atmosphere while they all grinned and congratulated one another.
"In and out, unsuspected and undetected," the fat one crowed. "Damn, I love a good smash-and-grab."
"Yeah, not so fast," the woman cut in. "Not so fast, dickheads." She and the pilot were staring at a screen on the control panel. "We're pickin up fields here." She flipped a few switches as a computerized voice spoke from the panel,
"Unknown fields detected on hull."
"I knew it," the pilot muttered. "Here it comes." The crew huddled around the console, shoulder to shoulder in the cramped space.
"It's some kind of scan," the woman said, answering Toombs' unspoken question. "I don't know. Readin our BTUs, maybe?"
Closing his eyes in resignation, Toombs spoke. "Let's drop one."
"Dropping." The pilot echoed the command as he keyed in the proper sequence. The ship shuddered as a set of bay doors opened to deploy a heat decoy.
"Decoy launched," the computer confirmed. The merc crew visibly relaxed.
Riddick watched the moment of panic from his seat at the rear of the ship and shook his head. This was going to be easier than he thought. He waited as the pilot engaged the ion drive, then Toombs turned to take him in.
"So," the merc said, "where do we drop your merc-killin ass? Who's gonna pay the most for you now?" He paused. "Butcher Bay?"
"Butcher Bay," Riddick repeated, injecting as much scorn into his voice as possible. He knew they would dump him on Crematoria, he just had to play his cards right. Looking up at Toombs, he gave the merc a considering look. "Ten minutes every other day on the dog run. Protein waffles aren't bad."
"Hey, how 'bout Ursa Luna?" Toombs offered, lighting a cigarette. "Nice little double-max prison."
"They keep a cell open for me…just in case I drop in," Riddick shot back.
"You know the problem with these joints now?" Toombs asked, turning back to his crew, his voice heavy with scorn. "Health clubs for waffle-eatin pussies. Maybe we should think about uppin our game here a little bit. Think about someplace truly diabolical." Riddick stifled a grin; that's it, follow my lead.
"What the hell's he thinkin now," the woman muttered from the front of the ship.
"He's thinkin a triple-max prison," Riddick offered. "A no-daylight slam. Only three of 'em left in this system – two of 'em outta range for a shitty little undercutter like this one with no legs. Leavin just…one –" right where I wanna go, "Crematoria." Now to drive the idea home. "That is what you had in mind, right, Toombs?"
"Hey," one of the crew objected, "how does he know where we're goin, and we don't?"
Toombs didn't reply. "Dope it out," he commanded.
"I hate this run," the pilot mumbled, pressing a brief kiss to a charm he wore around his neck.
"Just do it," Toombs growled, in a tone that suppressed any other objections.
"Don't know about this new crew of yours," Riddick taunted. "They seem a bit skittish. Probably shouldn't tell 'em what happened to the last crew." An uncomfortable silence descended, the crew sending wary glances at one another.
Toombs hissed a laugh, ambling back toward Riddick. "You know, you supposed to be some slick-shit killer," he rasped, his face inches away from the convict's. "Now look at you – all back-of-the-bus and shit." Blowing a lungful of smoke into Riddick's face, the merc took his seat and settled in for the trip to Crematoria.