Title: After Dusk
Author: Lady NeverAfterNon
Email: dragon_queen18 AT hotmail.com
Rating: TEENS
Summary: Takes place after Pitch Black and after Chronicles of Riddick. Kind of an AU. But not really.
Disclaimers: I don’t own Pitch Black, the Predators, or the crazy cool Anubis warrior things from the Mummy Returns.

 

Prologue

A planet, faraway from any human civilization once more came into the light. Shapes, terrible shapes that swarmed over the planet like vermin screamed in pain and terror, before crawling back into the ground from whence they came.

A torn, broken, despairing figure crawled slowly from the rock formation she was hiding in and drank in the welcome light from the three suns. The body of the figure should, by all possible means, not even be moving. The figure’s left arm was broken so that it hung at a odd angle, an ankle was sprained badly, several ribs were cracked and one was broken, the back was torn open by what looked by eagles talons. The hideous wounds had long since stopped bleeding but there was a huge dried scab mixed with cloth where the figure had obviously tried to staunch the bleeding.

The figure slowly and painfully drug herself self to a spot where days before a small spacecraft had broken free of the planet and made its way to space and freedom. She lay there in the burned and charred area of sand miserably before dragging herself to her feet.

She looked from horizon to horizon. All about her was nothing but, sand, sun, and blistering heat. After a moments bleak look, the figure spied a vehicle that had rumbled to life the moment the sun rose. The figure limped to it and sank with a sigh into the hard seat. Pressing the power button, she fed energy into the engine. The desert buggy leapt to life and jolted off into the desert away from the research station.

The woman stared straight ahead, and refused to acknowledge the tears of pain, rage, and disappointment prickling at the corners of her eyes. It did not take her long to reach the crash sight of the Hunter-Gratznar. She stumbled to the wreck and reassessed the damage. With a determined growl she set about cleansing and binding her wounds before turning to the wrecked craft itself.

---

Edmond McLain, Ed for short, was 42 and the chief mechanic on the space station Grolier Classic II. He wasn’t proud of his job, but it was a living and he did it well. As for his personality he was nice enough, a little on the rough side and being Irish he had the wild thatch of red hair and the fondness for drink. Nothing out of the ordinary really happened on the Grolier Classic, except for the occasional brawl between roughnecks and settlers.

So the day that the makeshift spaceship came crashing into the hanger was a day indeed. The ship looked like it had been half-hazardly nailed together and about ready to fall apart. He was even more surprised when a young woman, who looked even more worse off than her ship stumbled from its interior. She stayed conscious long enough to say two things.

“M-my names….Carolyn Fry. May I have a drink of water please?” Then she collapsed to the floor in a dead faint.

Ed McLain whistled in astonishment before motioning some men over to take this Carolyn Fry to sickbay. He stood looking at her ship for a long moment before shaking his head. He was impressed in spite of himself.

It would be days and days before the last survivor of the dark planet awoke, and when she did she had no idea to speak about where she’d come from or who she was. She also denied vehemently that her name was Carolyn Fry. Instead she called herself Abigail Lee. Ed felt guilty about it, but he had to tell her about the damage her ship caused the hanger, as well as her medical bill. She had listened in silence before telling him she had no way to pay off her debts.

“That’s quite all right lass, since you have skills as a pilot and mechanic, I’ll sign you on as one of my mechanics. After a while, when you’re debts are paid, you can leave. Or you can stay if you like. The lodgings good, plain but comfortable. All workers get their own set of rooms, company provided for the workers,” Ed McLain said. He held out his hand.

Abigail stared at it a moment before shaking firmly.

Ed nodded his approval. “You’ll start when you’re well enough to work.”

---

“Hey Lee! Didn’t you hear the dinner bell?”

Ed McLain glanced up from checking off tool shipment lists on his clipboard to the small drama unfolding in the large hanger. A group of male workers, typically big, hairy, and smelly were grouped around the door to the hanger; their attention directed on a young inconspicuous young blond woman. The biggest and the smelliest of the roughnecks, obviously the leader of the group, stepped forward.

“Lee! You ignoring me cupcake!” he bellowed.

The woman looked up from her work, finally noticing the group of men, and stared at them. She blinked, flipped them a rude hand gesture, and promptly returned to her work.

Ed grinned. ‘Way to go Lee. Kick him where it hurts.’

Ralph Wilcox, a drifting roughneck, had a fetish for picking on the strange young blond woman. Ed supposed it was because of Ralph’s choice in women. They were mostly beautiful, buxom, and they put out. Abigail Lee, on the other hand was just the opposite.

Carolyn Fry, known as Abigail Lee, was a hard worker and a excellent mechanic. Her peers called her the Ice Bitch on account of her cold, reclusive habits and sick-up-the-rear attitude. She let no one close to her. She asked nothing of people and expected nothing in return. Her only evident desire was that people let her alone. She did her job, and she did it well, no matter how insignificant it was.

She’d been working as a mechanic on the space station Grolier Classic II for over seven years now. It was hard work, mainly because she forced herself above and beyond what the other workers put in. Carolyn knew there was a lot of gossip going around about her. People on the Station wondered what the story was with the strange young woman who had at one time been relatively pretty, but was now scarred horribly, thick ropes of scares covering her shoulders and back, came crashing into a space station on the edge of familiar space, from deep space.

But Abigail Lee never gave them a clue. She had the ship she arrived in scrapped for usable parts, which she then sold. Ever since then she’d been working hard, paying off her debts. Ed McLain had avoided talking to Abigail Lee about her background; he knew when a human being was broken and he had no intention of reopening old wounds. He merely asked the best of his workers and there was no trouble.

Ed watched Abigail turn back to the engine of a space ship she was working on. She rolled up the sleeves of her over shirt, pulled a wrench from the back pocket of her overalls, and stuck her head into the engine compartment. Soon, clanking and tinkering noises filled the now empty hanger.

Ed stood there for a moment before shaking his head and heading to the mess hall. The heavy steel door clanged shut behind him. The hanger was quiet save for the sounds of work on the engine.

Carolyn Fry poked her head out from the engine compartment and looked around. The hanger was silent and devoid of human life. She sighed and wiped her forehead with the back of her arm. She closed the hatch on the engine compartment, put her tools away, and left the hanger.

She slowly wandered the metal halls, the silence only broken by scratchy messages over the PA system. It did not take her long to reach the lift that would take her to the workers quarters. Her set of rooms was relatively small, but as she opened the door and stepped into the room she breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t much, and it wasn’t exactly home, but it was the place she came back to each night, and where she soothed the hurts from the day.

Carolyn shut her door and dropped her room keys on the table in the kitchen. She then filled a pot with milk and set it on simmer. She traipsed off to her bathroom to take a long awaited shower. Carolyn stood in her room looking around for a moment. She stripped, dropping her dirty clothes to the floor with an uncaring plop, and stepped into the shower. She turned the hot water on full blast and immersed herself in it’s clean perfection, disregarding the fact that it was merely cleansed recycled water from the space station’s filters. Her thoughts drifted back to the planet.

The overwhelming darkness, the macabre singing of the creatures. The smell of sweat, blood, mud, and death. The terror, and then the brief comfort and belonging of being held desperately by another human being as they both clung stubbornly to life. When she closed her eyes, she could still hear him, smell him, and feel him. Then came the sickeningly sweet pain in her lower back. He’d stabbed her. She had quite trying to heave him to his feet and instead looked him in the eye, surprised.

She’d expected to see triumph and an I-told-you-not-to-trust-me expression on his face. Instead she saw a myriad of expressions on his face. She saw surprise, disbelief, sadness, anger, and…love?

No! She banged her forehead repeatedly against the cool tiles on the shower walls. No, she was not going there, it was just not possible. He would not feel anything for her, he was a bloody dangerous murdering convict, and her feelings had died on the planet. He hadn’t come back for her. He left her. Left her alone to die in that hellish place.

Carolyn finished with her shower, dried off, and dropped into bed. Visions of monsters, darkness, and glowing silver eyes haunting her dreams.

---

A few hours away from the space station, a small spacecraft with a twisted, smooth, and elongated shape dropped from hyperspace and made its way towards the space station.

Carolyn Fry looked up from her work as the general hubbub of the station’s hanger died down. A ship had glided silently in like some large winged predatorial bird and settled down with a quiet hiss. The Grolier Classic was a bit of a hot spot for adventurers, explorers, bounty hunters, treasure hunters settlers etc., alien and human alike.

The Yautja, known simply as Predators to the humans, tended to avoid human civilization. But when they did move in, it was usually for a hunt. So when a Predator spaceship landed right smack in the middle of the Grolier Classic’s hanger, its inhabitants got a little antsy.

Carolyn stayed where she was. She’d heard the stories. If the Yautja were here to hunt, it would do no good running from them. Better to stand one’s ground and have an honorable death than to flee like a coward. The Planet had taught her that much. She gripped the large heavy wrench in her hand like a club.

A ramp slowly and silently extended its self from the belly of the ship. Two figures sauntered down. One was a Yautja Predator dressed in full armor and the other was a tall creature that looked rather like a human with a dog’s head.

The dog creature thing was tall and bony, at least eight feet tall. Its legs were double jointed, bent slightly back at the second knee. Its body was covered with short black hair and its blue eyes glittered with innate intelligence. Simple gold armbands adorned its arms, and a collar of gold and precious stones was around its neck. About its waist was a white linen kilt that hung to its first knee. Its weapons consisted of a double ended spear strapped to its back; the two golden blades shaped like lotuses.

The predator was armed to the teeth. Complete with the shuriken and the plasma cannon. Its mottled light pale green skin was covered by armor stronger than any human alloy. Its face was covered by a mask but Carolyn knew it was surveying the room, looking for potential threats.

Having apparently come to a conclusion, both otherworldly creatures strode casually across the hanger to where Gallagher stood. The predator was silent but the dog creature offered a short gentlemanly bow and began to speak.

“Good day, we’re in the neighborhood, and we stopped to recharge our engines and have a bit of a rest. You don’t mind do you? We won’t be long, a few days at the least and I wondered whether you’d have a place to stay.” The dog thing’s voice had a distinct British accent.

Gallagher blinked and looked startled. A accent and manners of a British lord is not what one would expect on a eight foot tall monster.

“Well, I doubt that-” Gallagher stopped.

The Company had been demolished by the new leader of the necromongers, but the necromongers had not extended their control to the outer rim of Company space.

“Well, the leader of this outpost would not want your kind here, seeing how the relationships are,” Gallagher said. What he meant was, ‘Since the Yautja have a tendency to Hunt humans, you’re not welcome.’

“But,” Gallagher finished, “I’m chief mechanic and Leader has no say in my department. You can bunk with one of my workers.”

The dog creature bowed. “Thank you for your generous hospitality.”

At this conversation, the workers had all backed away. They had no desire for two apparent hunters living with them in close quarters. The two creatures stood there, the predator motionless but the dog creature looked around with a sort of friendly smile on his fierce face. Of course, when he smiled he also showed a mouth full of sharp white teeth which did nothing to sooth anyone’s fears.

After a long silence, Carolyn stepped forward. “They can stay with me.”

The dog’s things face brightened, if that was possible, and he stepped forward. “If you’ll take my things..”

He handed her his spear. Carolyn took it gingerly but it was surprisingly light. Good for walloping the heads of things with effortless ease, she supposed wryly. The dog thing meanwhile had sunk to all fours. His body crunched together, lost its human shape, and he became like a wolf/jackal. The armbands had disappeared but the collar was still around his neck.

Even though in dog form he was still big. His shoulders came up to Carolyn’s hip. She blinked and shook her head slightly. Carolyn put her tools away and led her guests to her apartments. She opened the door to admit them in. The predator was still silent and he strode in, seemingly giving his surroundings barely a glance. But the dog creature trotted in, politely complimenting everything.

Carolyn leaned the dog creature’s spear thing up against the wall, then headed into the kitchen. Her guests followed her. Carolyn was unsure of what she should serve them. It was earlier than she usually left work, just before dinner time. Carolyn could quite vividly imagine both creatures tearing viciously into some poor animal but she didn’t mention this.

“Would you like some tea?” she asked finally.

The dog smiled up at her from his curled up position under her table, showing all his teeth. “Yes please, my lady.”

Carolyn stared at him but then decided he was just being polite. She filled her kettle and set it on the stove to heat. The predator had dropped most of his body armor and weapons on the table with a loud clunk. He reached up to his mask and unhooked it. The hoses holding it in place came away with a hiss. Carolyn found herself watching in morbid fascination. She’d heard stories of Predators but had never actually seen one.

The mask came away and she stifled a gasp. He was hideous.

The predator looked at her and flared his mandibles with a little roar. Carolyn jumped, but then decided that he was just messing with her. After that, it became more comfortable. Carolyn found some steak in her freezer box that the predator tore into with relish, it made her a little sick to watch him. But the dog thing settled for tea, a ham sandwich, and a pickle. He’d reverted back to his humanoid form for convenience. He was also a very dainty eater unlike his companion who had covered half the table with blood splatters and filled the room with satisfied tearing, ripping, and sucking sounds.

Finally when they’d both finished, and Carolyn was wiping up from the predator’s messy meal, the dog creature poured himself a second cup of tea and leaned back in his chair.

“My name is Attila and my friend here is Ra. I would greatly desire to know the name of our generous host.”

Abigail Lee was on the tip of her tongue, but it occurred to her that Attila was not the sort of person one could lie to and get away with it. He was sitting there calmly with a knowing smile on his face. It wasn’t a superior smile, it was a knowing smile. It struck Carolyn then that although this creature before her was big, strong, and young looking, he also gave off an air of being very, very old.

“My name is Carolyn Fry,” she whispered.

The dog creature studied her thoughtfully. The predator looked at her too. They both watched her. Carolyn shifted uncomfortably. She felt as though she were on display and being judged. The predator, Ra, turned to Attila. They both clicked at each other for a moment. Then Attila looked back at Carolyn.

“Where did you get the scares on your back, and how did you lose your arm?”

That was something Carolyn had never told anyone. When she’d come to Grolier Classic II, her left arm had been horribly mangled. The doctors had had to cut it off just below the shoulder. Edmund Gallagher had had her fitting with a mechanical replacement arm, one much stronger and durable than a real arm. At Carolyn’s request, he’d kept this a secret.

Carolyn soon found herself spilling out her story of the Hunter-Gratzner, the crash, Jack, Owens, Johns, Zeke, Shazza, Imam, and Riddick. Attila and Ra listened in silence. After a long while, the dog creature rose.

“I am very sorry. I have seen much death and grieving in my life, but I have experienced nothing like what you have recounted. I admire your courage and perseverance and I have an offer to make you. We will pay the rest of your debts, and you will accompany us on our endeavors. Ra could use a copilot and I extra help in the engine room. And if we are attacked, a port gunner could be useful. In return for your services, we will care for you as best we can,” Attila said.

Carolyn sat there, frozen. She’d dreamed of leaving Grolier Classic, and finding a future for herself somewhere, but she did not know how to go about it. She looked up at Attila and Ra. The were both watching her. She nodded.

“I accept your offer.”

Attila smiled. “We shall leave in the morning. We’ll give you an hour to set your affairs in order.”

Carolyn smiled back. It was a start, one that she would welcome with open arms.

---

Carolyn watched the Grolier Classic II fall away. Soon, all that was visible through the port view ports were glittering, twinkling stars. She sighed and looked over at her new coworkers. Ra was piloting the ship with effortless ease while Attila was engaged in a holographic chess game with the ships computer.

She smiled as Attila made a choking snarling noise when the computer’s queen annihilated his bishop. That was the interesting part of the game. The pieces never died the same way twice. Carolyn watched Attila retaliate by putting the King in check with a rather dastardly knight.. But only to have the Queen bash his brains out. Attila howled. Carolyn smiled again as she looked back out the window. The shining light of the stars reminded her of a pair of similar silver orbs that had shone out of the darkness at her. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the cool reinforced glass. She drifted off into a restless sleep.

It was sometime later that she felt Ra shaking her roughly awake. Attila was at the controls now, and the surface of a planet rapidly growing bigger in the stem view ports. Carolyn came to stand beside Ra, just behind Attila. All three silently watched the planet grow steadily closer. Carolyn shuddered. It reminded her of the accursed planet that she’d struggled off of seven years ago.

The ship dropped into the planet’s clear atmosphere and skimmed above the barren surface. It was cold, bleak, and grayish orange. The sun hung low in the sky and shone with a tired red light.

“It’s dead,” Carolyn whispered.

Attila glanced back at her. “Yes, it’s surface is littered with the bodies of it’s people. But the planet Furya still clings to life. One just has to know where to look.”

They were flying straight at a plateau. Attila eased up on the thrusters and the ship settled on top of the flat area. Carolyn felt the engines slowing down as the ship settled down. They waited. Soon all was still and quiet save for the cold wind blowing dust and small pebbles here and there.

Suddenly the ship lurched drunkenly. At first, Carolyn could not fathom what was happening. Then she realized that the ship was slowly sinking into the ground. Carolyn gripped the back of Attila’s seat. Her knuckles turned white and cold sweat ran down her spine. The deep, wide scares on her back created little twisting rivulets of sweat. She’d never again been able to handle dark enclosed spaces. And now, going into the ground was unbearable.

She saw, out of the corner of her eye, Ra turn his head towards her. She could hear a soft whirr come from his helmet and a red laser scanned her body. She knew he saw the cold sweat, the trembling, the quickened breathing and the fast beating heart. Tell tale signs of fear. It made her embarrassed and uncomfortable. Ra didn’t know why, but he did know that she was scared shitless.

Ra clicked and chattered something to Attila who clicked and chattered reproachfully back. All the while the ship was steadily sinking and all around them it was pitch black. After what seemed like an eternity to Carolyn, the ship came to a shuddering halt. Carolyn waited, her whole body taught with tension.

‘This is not like the last time,’ she silently scolded herself, ‘Get a grip girl.’

Attila waited a moment before fully shutting the ship down, opening the main doors in the stern, and lowering the ramp. Carolyn grabbed her worn leather satchel and slung it over her shoulder. She followed her companions down the ramp and into the darkness. From the way their steps echoed, Carolyn gathered that the dark room, or cave if you will, that they were in was massive. Carolyn kept turning around and around, attempting to see anything through the velvety blackness. Her two companions were walking calmly straight away from the ship. Carolyn followed them blindly.

It was all very well for them. Attila’s dog eyes glowed blue and Ra’s mask was whirring slightly. They had no trouble seeing in this darkness. Carolyn found herself resisting the urge to put out her hand to insure that she would not run into anything. They’d only been walking for a minute or so when a soft golden glow illuminated a pair of steel doors just a head taller than Attila at the far end of the hanger, for that was apparently what they were in.

They crossed the room quickly, and the doors opened with a low groan. As they walked through, the lamps on either side of the doors extinguished themselves. Carolyn glanced back at the ship before walking through.

The world they entered was a far different world from which they had come.

---

It reminded her of a bee hive. It was a wide open space, rather like a vertical cylinder. She could not see how far it extended either way. There were hundreds of levels, each one filled with little alcoves and nooks, for different purposes. There were living quarters, stores, small hangers, along with a great many other things.

The thing that struck her the most though, was the fact that there plants everywhere. It seemed as though someone had planted or potted a plant wherever it could have been managed. There were thick green vines weaving, winding, and twisting their way through every nook and cranny. Up stairwells and over railings and balconies. Trees grew out of holes in the floor, from other levels. They spread their leafy branches over the people below them. Some were even being used as bridges when crossing gaps between levels.

There were flowers everywhere. They seemed to pop up all over the place. Hanging baskets full of nasturtiums, lilies and orchids; plants were everywhere.

Carolyn had no idea how deep within Furya they’d gone, but she knew that the heat in the air was not generated by any human or alien device. They must be near the core. The warmth was in the very rocks. Well, it probably should have been expected. The planet surface was so cold, it looked freeze-dried. Carolyn took off the light blue over-shirt she was wearing over her white tank top and tied it around her waist. She wiped her hands on her worn jeans; the heat was already getting to her.

Attila and Ra waited only a moment for her to adjust and absorb, then they went plunging into the crowd of people milling around. It wasn’t hard to keep up with them; they made an obvious effort to regulate their pace to hers. So Carolyn took this chance to inconspicuously study the people around her. There were aliens and humans alike.

But most of the humans seemed to be similar in features. Carolyn noticed that it seemed to either be culture or a fad to wear their hair up in dreads or tiny braids. Or just plain braids. They had caramel colored skin and brown eyes; they were lithe and athletic looking. They moved with an elegant proud grace, looking up at no one, but neither looking down on anyone else. They treated each other with aloof respect. Carolyn found herself wishing she’d not taken off her jacket, exposing her plain pale skin and gross looking scars in the midst of these proud, magnificent beings.

Carolyn was snapped from her wondering day-dream when she found that Attila and Ra had turned from what seemed to be the main highway to a small little glass elevator off to the side. She hurriedly stepped in after them. The little elevator’s engine started up with a hum, and they shot upward at a rapid pace. Carolyn turned to watch the little communities wiz by.

After a moment, a soft chirping noise that came from the ceiling caught her attention. Two enormous pale yellow eyes were watching her closely amidst the vines and leaves on the ceiling. Not knowing what to make of the situation, Carolyn stared right back. The eyes blinked slowly. Then the peculiar looking creature to whom the eyes belonged climbed down a hanging creeper and dropped onto Carolyn’s head.

Ra made an irritated groaning growling noise. Attila chuckled. “The Furyians call them Chibbits, they’re useful if they like you, but they can also be terribly annoying. Keep it away from Ra, he’ll try to eat it. He doesn’t like them much.”

Carolyn nodded wordlessly. She was too preoccupied with keeping the squirming creature in her arms and out of Ra’s ravenous gaze.

It looked to be a cross between a raccoon, a rabbit, a monkey, and a chipmunk. It was a fat, warm gray body, a thick bushy tail with black rings like a raccoon, abnormally long rabbit ears, agile and cleaver monkey arms and legs, and a face like a chipmunk. And large yellow eyes like an Australian Bush-Baby.

Finally getting comfortable, it looked up at her and chattered like a squirrel. Carolyn awkwardly stroked its glossy gray fur in an attempt to quiet it. She could see why Ra didn’t like them, the chattering was already getting on her nerves.

Attila chuckled. Carolyn finally got the chibbit calmed down and its large eyes slid closed. She continued stroking its fur. Ra was still watching it, she knew, with a hungry gaze. The small creature was indeed annoying but Carolyn felt that was not enough to merit a meal for a hungry Yautja.

All the while the elevator went steadily upward. Attila began to tell of the various levels, purposes and so forth, before moving on the subject of Furya’s tragic past. She listened with horror at how the Lord Marshall of the Necromongers, in order to preserve his rule, had Furyian babies strangled with their own umbilical cords. She turned cold when she remembered Riddick’s recollection of his heartbreaking entrance into the world.

At the frightening growl in Attila’s throat as he recounted this chilling story, the chibbit in her arms awoke and began to squirm anew. It squeaked incessantly, climbed up out of her arms and onto her shoulders where it perched precariously. It then attempted to jump from her shoulders back into the leaves at the ceiling.

But in doing this, the chibbit brushed up against Carolyn’s neck. On of the short blond curls at the nape of her neck caught in the chain that served as the chibbit’s collar. The chibbit pulled and yanked, desperately trying to free itself and escape Attila’s frightening growl and Ra’s hungry aura.

Carolyn’s holding it back only served to panic it further. With a painful rip the chibbit broke free and disappeared into the foliage, taking Carolyn’s blond curl with it. Carolyn rubbed the back of her neck furiously, her skin red and burning.

“That hurt!” she hissed, glaring up at the chibbit hiding in the leafy ceiling; the chibbit only chattered at her.

The chibbit was spared for the moment when the elevator dinged quietly as it came to a halt. The doors slid open silently to reveal a level reminiscent of a market place. Actually, that’s what it was. The stepped from the elevator into the crowded market place.

Carolyn followed Attila and Ra through the market, drinking in the fascinating sights and smells. People and aliens alike were shouting , talking, and laughing as they called out their wears. Haggling, bartering, and selling.

They made a beeline for a small pub, and took a seat outside where they’d have a good vantage point of the street. Within seconds, a fuchsia colored waiter with yellow spots glided over to their table. He blinked his large brown stag eyes and in a slow melancholy voice asked them what they would like. Carolyn blinked before looking round at her companions.

Attila shrugged. “You can have what you like, it’s on our contact.”

Carolyn nodded and turned to the waiter. “A merlot please.”

Attila ordered a bourbon and Ra had something that looked like congealing blood in a glass. They sat quietly sipping their drinks and watching the street. After a while, Carolyn pushed back her chair and turned to Attila and Ra.

“So, what’s this contact?” she asked.

Attila looked at her. “Might as well be honest with you. We’re smugglers for the Furyians. We go out and trade under the noses of the Necromongers. Help those who’ve had their planets wasted. Anyone whose been ‘converted’ by the Necromongers, we bring them back and take care of them until we can steal their chip from the mother ship”

Carolyn cocked her head to one side. “Chip?”

Attila leaned forward. “See, when the Necros ‘convert’ someone, they take their brain, scan it onto a computer chip and store it, before putting a bug in the person’s brain that’ll delete everything so the Necros can put in anything they want. Now, we’ve had a couple of cases where people have fought the bug and killed it off. But those are very few indeed. I’ve only met two of the five known.”

Carolyn nodded thoughtfully. “Have you ever gone on a retrieval operation?”

Attila shook his head. “I haven’t, but Ra here has. He’s got a score of thirty-four. One of the best in the business.”

“Because he’s a Predator.”

“Stealth and sneaking are their business.”

It was quiet for a moment as all gathered their thoughts. The silence was broken when Ra ‘spoke’. His voice was a mix of recordings of different people, their voices distorted. Their words all chopped up and pieced together to convey what Ra wanted to say.

“They keep chips in vault under throne room,” he said.

Carolyn looked up. It was the first time she’d heard Ra talk other that his clicking language. She was fascinated. He proceeded to tell she and Attila of his exploits, how he out smarted and snuck past Necromonger goons.

Apparently Yautja Predators live much, much longer than humans. Ra told in his choppy, recorded voice of his past exploits against the previous Lord Marshalls. How he thwarted them each a different time. He also spoke of how cowardly and murderous the last Lord Marshall was. He was the hardest to escape from, being ‘half dead.’ Ra had only filched chips twice from him.

Ra was interrupted as their table was approached for the second time. A Furyian woman strode purposefully up to them, pulled back a chair, and sat opposite Attila. She was about five foot eleven and had bleached blond hair worn in dreadlocks down her back. She was dressed in worn green camouflage pants, mud encrusted black combat boots, and a white spaghetti tank top.

Carolyn felt self conscious again in the presence of this caramel skinned physically fit woman, so she slipped her jacket back on.

(A/N: Yes, Carolyn’s left arm is gone and in its place is a mechanical one. She wears a black canvas glove over it that comes up just below the shoulder. Its fastened in place with a thin black belt near the top.)

The woman leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table top. “We’ve finished loading your ship. The cargos sealed and ready. You’ll be paid 1.5 grand for the drop job and another two when you get back, as agreed.”

Attila and Ra glanced at each other, nodded, and stood. Carolyn and the woman followed suite. They all shook hands and the woman slapped down the payment for their drinks before melting back into the crowd. The unordinary trio turned and headed back to their ship, The Legend.

In the elevator, the chibbit made a reappearance. It crawled down a stray vine and dropped onto Carolyn’s shoulder, rubbing its face against her cheek in an attempt to make up. Carolyn groaned in irritation but reached up to pet it anyway. The chibbit butted its head against her cheek in an effort to gain more enthusiastic petting. Carolyn relented and scratched behind its huge long ears.

When the elevator dinged signifying the arrival at their destination and they stepped out, the chibbit remained on Carolyn’s shoulder. She poked it with her finger but it did not move.

“Won’t it be missed?” she asked.

“I doubt it. Chibbits go and do what they please,” Attila said.

Carolyn glanced at the chibbit. “Well, I guess you’re coming with me then.”

It did not take long to reach the ship. They walked up the ramp with a briskness that was not present on the way down. Entering the small cockpit, Ra immediately took the pilot’s seat and Attila sat next to him as copilot. Before Carolyn sat down just behind and to the left of Attila at the navigator’s seat, she coaxed the chibbit into her bag before securing it. It wouldn’t do to have a chibbit running around in the cockpit.

Ra growled. “Strap in ooman, hyperspace not fun with out straps.”

Carolyn leaned forward eagerly. “You have a hyper drive!”

Only select few could afford hyper drives. Using a slower engine along with a cryo-chamber was much cheaper.

Attila chuckled. “This ship was an old hunter vessel about to be scrapped. Ra and I got it cheap. But we did have to replace a bunch of parts and then ended up customizing most of it. Works okay but we still have to do repair jobs. That’s one of the reasons we signed you on.”

Carolyn shivered. “I’ve never worked on a hyper drive before.”

“You’ll get the hang of it. It’s not difficult once you know what you’re about.”

Carolyn nodded and strapped herself in. Attila flipped some switches, then contacted the person in control of the main doors to the hanger. They got the go ahead and far above them Carolyn saw a tiny speck of light appear, steadily growing wider.

Ra gunned the engines and the ship rocketed upward at an alarming rate. It seemed as though they were going to slam into the edges of the doors that did not seem to be opening quite fast enough. But at the last second they opened fully and the ship screamed through, flying out into space.

Attila swiveled his chair around, plotted their destination, and gave Ra the coordinates. Ra flipped some switches and pulled back on the controls. The ship shot forward and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

“Next stop, Necropolis!” Attila sang out.

“We’re going to Necroville!” Carolyn said incredulously.

“They’re big buyers,” Ra said without looking back.

"What could you have that they could possible want?”

“We give them the virus that allows them to waste planets.”

---

“What!”

“We give them the virus and they use it. But the Furyians who give it to us to give to them fix it.”

Carolyn blinked. “The Furyians are willingly giving deadly toxic virus to the people that destroyed them?”

Ra shook is head and his dark green dreadlocks swayed side to side. “The Necromongers thing they get it from renegade Yautja group.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Carolyn said slowly, “The Necromongers think they’re getting this crap from the Hunters when really they’re getting doctored Furyian sludge?”

“Correct.”

Carolyn threw back her head and laughed out loud. “Serve those assholes right! What exactly does the Furyian stuff do?”

Attila rested his elbows on his knees, and his dog head in his hands. “We can’t stop them from gassing people but we can put a drug in it that will give the innocent civilians a chance. It will give the body a resistance of the virus in the future. Basically all we can do is force the victim planet to like dormant for 50 or 60 years, til the Necromongers kind of forget about them. But by then it will be too late. We’ll be ready for them.”

She was curious about ‘we’.

Attila grinned with evident anticipation, showing rows of dripping white fangs. At that moment, Carolyn could see the could merciless warrior that existed beneath the well spoken British exterior.

Attila turned to Ra and they began to discuss their plans in the clicking Yautja language. Carolyn tuned them out. Like she could speak Predator. In stead, she got out the bag with the chibbit in it from the net carrying sack attached to the side of her seat. She’d left the bag open a bit so the chibbit could pop its head out and observe the proceedings. She opened the bag and the chibbit scrambled up to its self designated spot on her shoulder. Carolyn absentmindedly scratched behind its ears and the chibbit began to purr like a rusty motor.

Attila turned back towards her. “We’re nearly there. Here, put this on before the Necromongers get a lock on the ship and scan us.”

He was holding out what looked to be a stainless steel metal ring about a half inch thick and an inch and a half wide. Carolyn took it. When she touched it, the metal ring separated at on side.

“It goes around your neck,” Attila instructed.

Carolyn fastened it around her neck. It clamped on and she felt five stinging sensations at different intervals around her neck. She looked up at Attila questioningly.

“It’s a fake Yautja slave collar. The real ones have needles that constantly inject the victim with a serum that eats away their brain codes, so then the only thing they think or feel is whatever is programmed in.”

“But this one IS fake right?” Carolyn asked.

“Yes. You need to have the appearance of a slave, one owned by prospective clients I might add, so that the Necromongers will not be inclined to coerce you into their religion. That’s the last thing we need.”

“Just making sure,” she muttered.

“The Necromongers won’t know the difference. They got the zombie brainwashing idea from the Predators anyway. But their method is sloppy and dangerous,” Attila added.

“Dangerous how?”

“Prisoners retain some of their own will, then get free,” Ra told her.

Carolyn shuddered. She suddenly had no desire to ever go the Yautja home world. It would be a cruel, fascist, unforgiving place.

Attila broke the silence. “Now, you may not notice it, but your eyes have acquired a light white film over the irises. That’s normal, so don’t worry. Be sure, if anyone speaks directly to you, treat them with indifference. Keep a bland monotone.

“Okay, but what exactly are the needles injecting anyway?”

“It’ll give you pretty much anything good for your body that its lacking. Vitamins, oxygen for your blood, and it keeps you from getting dehydrated. It will also mask your brain wave images from the dead interrogation machine they’ve got, as well as shield your free human scent from their half dead bloodhounds.”

Carolyn sat back to contemplate this while stroking the chibbit. It was ignoring her at the moment, intent on grooming its self. Carolyn laughed at the way it twisted its self around in odd positions in order to reach in accessible areas.

“No laughing. We here,” Ra said sharply.

The ship dropped from hyperspace and immediately they were hailed by a cold, crisp, bodiless voice. Attila answered in clipped tones and they were given permission to proceed. Carolyn made sure her face was a stoic mask as a dozen Necromonger warships decloaked and emerged into the visible spectrum all around them.

Carolyn was slightly awed, and mostly intimidated in their icy presence. Death radiated from the Necromonger vessels in evil waves.

They made for the largest ship. Its cold power far surpassed the others and the closer they came to it, the smaller they seemed to feel. A black opening that was the main hanger yawned open like some great beast’s mouth before them. Attila eyed the red laser beams reaching out to scan their ship for threats.

He hurriedly shoved Carolyn a large long bow and a quiver full of arrows with wicked black points honed to a razor sharp edge. The arrows were notched so that they would not relinquish their hold on their victim so easily.

“Can you shoot?” he asked tersely.

Carolyn nodded. A long time ago, on a dark planet, a man named Paris had taught her archery on an old Anglo Saxon long bow. In order to defend herself and others against an escaped convict named Riddick.

The chibbit made room so she could sling the quiver over one shoulder so that the belt was across her chest and the carrying part at her back, while the bow went over the other shoulder.

The ship docked and the hanger doors slid closed and sealed against the vacuum of space. There was aloud hissing noise as the airlocks opened and air flooded the hanger.

“Ready?” Ra asked.

In the space of five seconds he’d strapped on more armor and concealed more weapons on his person. He’d gone from pilot to the perfect hunter in moments. Attila, meanwhile, seemed to have grown another few inches. His short black fur seemed to have acquired a blue sheen. His apparent Egyptian origin was showing in his stance, weapons, and attire. Attila’s double ended golden lotus spear thing was strapped to his back. He looked every bit like Anubis.

Both creatures looked forbidding and deadly. Carolyn found herself glad that she was not alone and unprotected in this horrible place. The trio, well quartet counting the chibbit, hadn’t known each other very long but already they were strong friends.

They walked silently to the aft section of the ship and stood before the main doors. Carolyn took her place behind Attila and Ra as Ra pressed the button for the doors. The swished open swiftly, revealing a large room furnished with steel girders, columns, and riveting.

They descended the ramp to be greeted by a important looking man accompanied by a small squadron of soldiers. He stepped up to them and bowed with military precision.

“My name is Vaako. I am commander of the Necromonger forces and loyal servant to the Lord Marshall. You will have an audience with his honor shortly. But in the meantime, you will be shown to your rooms. I regret that I have urgent business to attend to but my wife, the Dame Vaako will assist you.”

He stepped aside and gestured at a bit of darkness in the shadow of a column that did not seem quite like the rest. The darkness detached itself from the shadow and sauntered over too them, taking the form of a woman.

‘Snake,’ thought Carolyn.

And she looked it too. From the heavy lidded eyes to the golden body glove dress that she wore. Dame Vaako greeted them cordially, flattering Ra’s sharp weapons and Attila’s noble stature, but every inch of her was false.

The persistent woman attempted to engage Attila in conversation but he only answered her in pleasant guarded tones. Ra flat out refused to make any noise at all.

At last, obviously giving up on the two creatures, Dame Vaako turned to Carolyn.

“And who’s this pretty little waif?”

“She’s our slave.” Attila did not offer any more than that.

Since the question was not directed to her specifically, Carolyn didn’t look at her, made no inclination to indicate that she’d heard the woman at all. Dame Vaako did not seem to take into account that the small blond woman she was talking to was a mindless drone. She did everything short of directly addressing Carolyn, to get her to speak.

Carolyn said nothing. She kept her focus on Ra’s big, armor encrusted back, but she heard the chibbit on her shoulder chatter angrily at the Dame Vaako.

By the time they reached their quarters, Dame Vaako was silently seething at the insolence of this woman. She’d forgotten the fact she was speaking to a zombie. And that large gray RAT on her shoulder. She’d have that thing fed to a Necromonger bloodhound at first chance. She laughed a haughty lilting laugh to mask her feelings and said no more. She would bide her time and make her plans.

The emerged from the main hallway into a cramped dimly lit corridor. Dame Vaako showed them their door and left.

Attila waited until they were within the safety of their rooms before his outburst.

“Gah, I hate that woman!” he exclaimed.

“She latched on like Golgarthan blood leach,” Ra added.

Ra and Attila spent the next few minutes happily verbally bashing the Dame Vaako. Carolyn chose not to get involved. The way the woman had jumped her like that. It was as if she KNEW. Carolyn felt the animosity between them and it was dripping from the Dame Vaako when she’d left.

She looked around at the interior of the room. “Lights on full.”

Blessed light flooded the room. They were in the living room portion. The room was furnished with a low couch and coffee table. Like the rest of the facility, the décor was a bland gray. Carolyn saw three other doors that most likely led off to bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

Carolyn was interrupted from her thoughts a minute later by a rhythmic knocking at the door. It opened to reveal a young Necromonger captain accompanied by six soldiers who identified himself as Xernen.

“The Lord Marshall will see you now.”

The trio rose and followed him from their rooms and down the corridor. They entered a hydro lift to take them to upper levels. Carolyn made sure the chibbit was safe on her shoulder and it wasn’t going anywhere. She wouldn’t put it past some Necro-zombie to eat it, or something.

It seemed to take forever to reach the throne room.

Upon their arrival, three soldiers lined up on either side of them and the captain went on ahead, calling their names, announcing them to the court within.

Ra the blooded Yautja warrior, Attila the mutant hybrid from ancient Earth, and their human slave Abigail Lee.

Carolyn saw the large dim room with its statures of death and twisted décor before her eyes settled on the lazy, but dangerous imposing figure lounging in the Lord Marshall’s throne on a raised dais at the head of the room.

It was Richard B. Riddick: murderer, escaped convict from the Slam and pretty much any high security prison you cared to mention, and current head-honcho at Necropolis.

She couldn’t make out for sure, with the goggles on and all, but it seemed as though he were looking straight at her.

---

Carolyn Fry took one look at Riddick reclining on that great stone chair with cat like grace and panicked. She ducked to the left of the open doors and out of sight. The large bodies of Attila and Ra protected her from view. The doors to the throne room swung shut with a bang and she found herself alone in the frigid gray corridor.

The chibbit, spying a chance at long desired exploration, sprang from her shoulder and bounded down the corridor. Carolyn chased after it, calling softly for it to please come back. She hurried past huge stone effigies depicting triumphant Necromongers, and elaborate murals showing Necromongers at their cruelty.

At the far end of the corridor, there was a branch. Carolyn skidded to a halt and looked around wildly for the chibbit. She was just in time to see its tail whipping out of sight and around the first turn in a spiral staircase with ornate steel grating, leading to another level. Carolyn hesitated only a moment before darting to the right and up the staircase after the chibbit. It did not take long to reach the top.

She came out on what appeared to be a balcony that ran all the way around the throne room. Carolyn spied the chibbit jumping up and down, attempting to see over the cold marble railing. Keeping low, she hurried over to it and picked it up. The chibbit rubbed up against her and chittered quietly, chastising her for taking so long.

Carolyn sighed and began stroking its soft fur. But voices echoing up from the room below reminded her of the events taking place below her. She slipped over to where she could conceal herself in the shadow of a pillar and still watch the proceedings. Sound carried remarkably well in this wide space, and Carolyn found herself yearning and at the same time dreading the sound of Riddick’s voice.

He had not spoken yet. Vaako was working out the particulars of the bargain between the smugglers and the Necromongers. Riddick remained silent on his throne watching Attila through his goggles. Carolyn could not perceive his thoughts from his face, it was a mask of stone.

“-the infusion is ready to be mixed. All is as specified,” Attila was saying, he was being very diplomatic.

Carolyn watched the Dame Vaako saunter forward.

“My Lord Attila, you’ve been so helpful to us for many a year. I have a wish, nay, a desire,” She said coaxingly.

Attila gave a short, gentlemanly bow. “My lady, if it is within reason, I will grant it.”

Dame Vaako gave a little laugh that set Carolyn’s teeth on edge.

“You flatter me with your generous words. I only wish to know where you acquired such a lovely slave…She does not seem to be with us,” Dame Vaako mused.

Carolyn stared hard at Attila, almost as it she could command him with her thoughts.

‘Oh be careful,’ she willed, ‘Dame Vaako isn’t a fool, she’ll know the game’s up if you slip.’

Attila chuckled pleasantly and gestured towards Ra. “My companion here came across the lonely little waif during a regular Hunt on a planet out in deep space. She was barely holding off the creatures and he was impressed with her will to survive, so he rescued her.”

Riddick spoke for the first time. His deep gravely bass was just as she remembered. It washed over her and warmed her straight down to her core. He lifted his goggles from his eyes and stared at Attila.

“And what planet was this?”

He had that slightly amused expression on his face, which meant he was planning something devious. Attila looked hard at Riddick. He seemed to know that somehow things were hanging in the balance and that in a moment they could go terribly, dreadfully wrong.

“The Yautja simply call it ‘Delhargaratha’ which means ‘The Dark Place,” Attila said calmly, his body taught like a steel cord, all his attention fixed on Riddick.

“And her name is Abigail Lee you say?” Riddick was looking even more amused.

“That is the name she gave us, before we fitted her with the slave collar.”

“How long has she been wearing the collar?” Riddick asked. He was no longer amused.

Attila was silent for a moment, staring hard at Riddick. Dark vivid blue eyes met silvery metallic in a noiseless battle of wills.

“Seven years,” Attila answered finally. His long black tail twitched once and then he was still.

Carolyn let out the breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. After seven years with a Yautja slave collar, the victim’s brain would be mush. There was no reason for Riddick to approach her; it was useless to talk to a walking vegetable. She would not have to face him. At least, not yet.

“I see,” Riddick murmured, “You’re all dismissed.”

Attila offered a short little bow before turning and leaving with the rest of the Lord Marshall’s court. The doors closed behind them and Carolyn could see them no more. She had the chibbit firmly secured in her arms and was about to descend when she heard the unmistakable voice of Riddick.

He was alone now, save for Dame Vaako. Carolyn hid in the shadow of the pillar again. The chibbit was completely silent, seemingly sensing the urgent need for quiet.

“My lord,” Dame Vaako whispered quietly and seductively, “You seem troubled. Is there nothing I might do to help my sovereign?”

Riddick ignored her. He sat there on his throne of cold gray stone, seemingly deep in thought.

“Carolyn,” he murmured softly and gently, almost a gentle caressing chastise, like a lover might.

Then his right hand clenched and he slammed his closed fist down onto the armrest of the throne. It cracked. The heavy ornate masonry at the end broke off with a loud clunk that echoed in the silent empty room.

“Bitch,” he growled angrily, “Stupid Bitch.”

Carolyn Fry was not the only who’d jumped at that subtle outburst of anger. Dame Vaako’s face had turned slightly gray, her mouth was drawn into a tight scared line. But her black eyes glittered as she watched the powerful, yet shrouded man slowly rise from his throne and walk slowly away.

Already Dame Vaako’s mind was jumping to the conclusion that Abigail Lee was this mysterious Carolyn person due to Riddick’s apparent interest in her. Dame Vaako was not a fool, she’d seen Riddick’s reaction to the elusive Abigail Lee and her mind was already producing ways to exploit this new situation to her advantage.

Abigail Lee’s brain might indeed be nonexistent, but if the time came Dame Vaako was sure Riddick would protect the little gamine at any cost. Dear little Abby would be a trump card just in case Dame Vaako’s original plans went sour. But yet she could not quite suppress the sudden vicious twinge of jealousy. Dame Vaako was the most powerful, beautiful woman in Necropolis. Riddick could have her if he wanted and yet the Lord Marshall turned down her advances for a scarred slip of a blond whose brain was practically a limp noodle.

Dame Vaako took a deep shuddering breath and made sure her face had a confident pleasant expression before she strode briskly from the empty throne room. She had a husband to collect.

---

Carolyn stood motionless on the balcony, staring at the spot Riddick had vacated. She was all alone now and she felt as though the breath had been sucked out of her. Carolyn closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Riddick scared and excited her at the same time. This encounter with him, however indirect it was, left her chilled and trembling. The way he said her name warmed her right down to her toes but then his anger turned her insides to ice. That anger frightened her, she’d forgotten just what exactly he was capable of.

The chibbit twisted around in her arms, its long ears flicking back and forth, and its long whiskers tickled her ear. Carolyn turned and was about to again descend the stairs when heavy footfalls echoed up from below. They came nearer and nearer.

She looked around swiftly but for a moment for somewhere to hide, somewhere to run. But there was no other option than to stand blankly like a slave. Carolyn waited with baited breath as the heavy footsteps drew closer. Suddenly, they stopped. Carolyn resisted the urge to crane her neck and search for the source of the footsteps.

She stayed still and watched. But with a sudden shock she realized that whomever or whatever had been the cause of the footfalls must have reached the foot of the stairs. She looked hard but saw no one. Carolyn stood very still. She could hear heavy breathing as through a mechanical breathing regulator.

Then she noticed that the air around the top of the stairs was warped. It seemed to take light itself and turn it around. The shimmer moved towards her once it realized that it had been discovered. Finally it stood directly in front of her. The thing was at least a foot and a half taller than her 5’7’’ and built like a bull.

A crackling noise issued from it and Ra’s familiar form materialized into being in front of her. He disengaged the hoses from his mask, removed it, and flared his mandibles; roaring at her. Ra stepped towards her and she took on step back. His large fist connected with her chest. He was not seeking to hurt her, merely to admonish her for leaving.

He motioned for her to follow him, and as she did so, she resisted the urge to put a hand to her aching chest. Ra led her down the staircase. At the bottom, he instructed her to keep a low profile and to keep behind him. She followed after him with a steady even pace. Her arms swung slightly at her side.

Ra meanwhile was no longer attempting to be stealthy. He had his helmet tucked under one olive green speckled arm and he strode along at a considerable pace, long metal encircled green dreadlocks swinging side to side. His alien armor clinked against the black metal mesh that was his heat source. Ra was a reptile species so he obviously could not generate his own heat source. He had to rely on an outside supply.

Ra plunged into the crowd of Necromongers milling about. Carolyn walked steadily after him, trying to ignore the chibbit who kept changing positions on her shoulders. Its bottle brush tail was bristling. It clearly did not want to be touched by any Necromonger fiend. She slowly put up her hand and stroked its fur in an effort to calm it.

The chibbit curled itself around her neck and was still. Carolyn tried hard not to wince. The chibbit was causing the needles to press slightly deeper than normal and it was making her nauseous .

Ra led her back to the dimly lit corridor where their suite was located. He opened the door and pushed her inside. Before he entered himself, he glanced casually up and down the vacant hallway for any living or dead soul. Seeing nothing, he gave a satisfied grunt and closed the door.

Carolyn stood in the middle of the room. The chibbit jumped down from the safety of her shoulders and began to vigorously investigate the suite. Attila emerged from the bathroom where he’d removed his white linen kilt. He had no obvious human male parts, just short black dog fur all over his body.

“I’m soaking it in the bathtub. It’s a bit dirty,” he explained.

Carolyn nodded, not really paying attention.

“By the way,” he asked casually, “What made you so jittery about meeting the Lord Marshall?”

“I’m scared of him,” Carolyn said lamely.

Attila gave her his probing look but said no more on the subject.

He began to remove his ornate jeweled collar, the small gold hoop earrings followed along with his cold armbands and his weapons. All this he dumped uncaringly in a pile in the corner before shifting back into a dog. Attila curled up on a rug in the middle of the floor before looking up at Carolyn.

“All right,” he said, “We need to form our strategy. Ra, is there anyone outside the door?”

Ra put his helmet on and scanned the room and corridor outside.

“No life forms or bugging devices for fifty feet,” he reported, removing his helmet.

“How peculiar,” Attila mused.

Ra shrugged and detached his armor save for the metal and leather kilt around his loins. He began to check the state of his armor, repairing where it was needed, buffing the alien metal, and sharpening his various deadly weapons.

Carolyn watched him in fascination for a moment before her attention was once more claimed by Attila. She sat down before him on the floor and crossed her legs indian style. The chibbit came and curled up in her lap. It butted up against her hand, begging to be petted. She obliged.

“Now,” Attila said, “Our chance will be coming soon.”

Carolyn listened quietly and attentively.

“The Necromongers are holding a fancy dress ball tonight in honor of their 60th planet gassed. Apparently it’s a bit of a tradition to hold a extravagant party every ten vanquished planets.”

“So basically it’s a chance to show everyone how rich you are, get drunk off exotic booze, then fornicate,” Carolyn said flatly.

Attila nodded. “Basically.”

“Oh joy,” Carolyn muttered.

Somehow the thought of Riddick with some skanky Necromonger woman made her stomach churn.

“Unfortunately, the new Lord Marshall has decided to terminate our agreement,” Attila said.

Carolyn’s head jerked up.

“How do you know?” she asked sharply.

“I shall admit to being a bit of a mind reader.”

“Telekinetic?”

“Not exactly. Some people are more inept at hiding their thoughts than others. It‘s a bit of a trick. It also helps that my brain is a sort of different than human brains.”

Carolyn blinked. “I didn’t think the Lord Marshall would be that easy to read.”

“Oh he wasn’t. I couldn’t get in at all. At least, not without his noticing. I read his second in command instead. Vaako was quite easy to read.”

“Ah.”

“So,” Attila went on, “according to Vaako, we’re unsafe. We know too much and have been trusted far too long. The Necromongers have already found a new donor of the concoction that we’ve been giving them. Fortunately, I’ve discovered it’s more of our own people. So the plans can continue. I think the Necromongers have become suspicious of the three of us though.”

Ra looked up from his polishing and sharpening. “It was his snake of a mate, Dame Vaako. She put him up to it.”

“Too true, old friend,” Attila agreed

Carolyn snorted contemptuously. “Why am I not surprised?”

Attila grinned showing his fangs as a thought struck him. “I figure we go out with a bang. During this party, Ra will cloak at different intervals and place explosives around the ship. We don’t have enough to bring it down, just cause enough damage to create pandemonium. In the chaos that follows Carolyn will try her hand at chip stealing while Ra and I rescue the elemental called Aereon. She is vital to the Furyian cause.”

“One thing,” Carolyn said.

“What’s that?”

“The Lord Marshall, under any circumstance save decimation, is not to be harmed,” she said firmly.

The black spikes above Ra’s deep set golden shark like eyes rose. “Why?”

“Because I owe him my life,” Carolyn said simply.

Attila eyed her for a moment before nodding. “We’ll give him a sedative and stick him in a sealed escape pod if it comes to that.”

“You need a helluva lot of knockout gas to bring him down. Even cryosleep doesn’t work on him. It’s the most hardcore stuff I know of that’s not illegal,” Carolyn said.

Attila chuckled. “Ra will be able to handle him.”

“Don’t count your eggs before they’re hatched.”

“That’s true…Ah well. We see what happens when it happens.”

Ra set down the retractable spear he’d been working on and began to gird himself with his newly polished armor.

“What is there between you and Necromonger leader?” Ra asked bluntly.

Carolyn opened her mouth then stopped. Both Attila and Ra were looking at her patiently.

“I don’t know,” Carolyn said finally. She suddenly felt drained and tired.

“Don’t know?” Attila asked.

“Well, on the planet, he could have ghosted us at any point, but he didn’t. He had a chance to leave the planet unscathed but he didn’t. He came back with me to rescue two people who had a good chance of already being dead. I admired his strength, and his sureness in himself. I loved his will to survive and ached for him, because while he was so much stronger than me, I still had more that he did. I had a life. He had nothing. “Anyway, he fell behind and I went back for him, because I wanted to protect whatever made him come back for Jack and Imam. I didn’t care whether I lived or died at that point. I just wanted him to live and be safe. But then, he stabbed me.”

Attila looked at her seriously. “You are sure that he stabbed you?”

“The creatures were drawn to the smell of blood. I thought he bled me so he’d have a chance. But when the creature grabbed me, he wouldn’t let go. The look on his face….I…I’m so confused.”

“I do not think Riddick drew your blood,” Attila said firmly.

“How can you be so sure?” Carolyn retorted, “It’s just the sort of thing he might do.”

“I perceive Riddick as a man with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Your saving him gave him a new outlook on life, I believe,” Attila said delicately.

“Take off shirt ooman,” Ra told her.

Carolyn looked at him, bewildered.

“Just lift the back, I think I know what he has in mind,” Attila reassured her.

Carolyn decided to trust them and lifted the back of her shirt. She felt embarrassed at exposing her scars but neither Ra nor Attila seemed to care much. She felt the slight tingle as Ra scanned her. Then she felt the tip of his claw at her lower back.

“You describe Riddick’s shiv. Shiv not make that sort of cut. I Hunt beasts long time. Jagged and round cuts like this,” Ra said.

Carolyn slowly touched the fat round scar to the left of her spine. “Then he didn’t try to kill me…”

“Hardly,” Attila said.

“He did leave me though,” Carolyn said, looking up at them, “He didn’t come after me.”

“His motives for that can only be explained by him, but I can safely guess that once he believed you to be dead at the hands of the creatures, his first priority was to ensure the safety of himself and the two remaining passengers.”

There was a long silence as Carolyn absorbed this conversation.

She hesitated, looking down at her worn jeans, white tank top, and light blue over shirt. “What am I going to wear?”

Attila nodded towards one of the bedrooms. “Check the closets.”

She nodded, gently dislodged the chibbit, and went into the adjoining bedroom. There was a large bed in the middle of the room with mahogany bedstead and black sheets. There was a closet of the same mahogany wood to the left. Carolyn purposefully over to it and wrenched open the doors.

There wasn’t much of a choice. The gowns were all tight black lacy body glove things. Carolyn poked at one with disgust. Undeterred though, she riffled through them. Then she spied one that was different from all the rest. Carolyn pulled it off the hanger and inspected it. It was gray and made of a material that flowed like water and felt like cotton.

She grinned evilly. It was a light gray. She tossed the dress over her arm and stuck her head out the bedroom door.

“Hey Til? Do you have any dye?”

Attila tossed her a small clear bottle filled with a deep blue liquid. “It’s strong stuff that Ra uses to mark his kills with. Only a drop Carolyn.”

She caught the bottle and looked dubiously at it. “Will it turn me blue if I put it on the dress?”

Attila shook his head. “No, but the dress will stay blue until kingdom come. Even then it probably will stay blue.”

Carolyn laughed. “I see.”

She retreated into the large elegant bathroom. Attila’s kilt was still soaking in the sizable black marble bathtub so she removed it and hung it up to dry. She dumped the dress into the tub, filled it with fresh water, and poured in a drop of dye.

The little blue sphere of dye hung suspended in the clear water for a second until it burst, sending little blue tendrils of color off in all different directions. In moments, the water was a dark vivid blue.

Carolyn stood there a moment before picking up the fascinated chibbit who was leaning over the rim to see the water and was about to experience its blueness first hand. Carolyn seriously doubted that the chibbit wished to be a nice blue color for the duration of its life so she kept it secure in her arms.

“It only takes a minute!” Attila called from the main room.

Carolyn was about to stick her hand in to retrieve her gown when she realized that she probably wouldn’t want a blue hand for the party. It would reveal what exactly she’d been up too and Dame Vaako would gloat to high heaven. As if she’d give that snake dirt on her.

She raised her left arm and unbuckled the small belt holding the black canvas glove to her arm. She pulled off the glove and exposed her arm. There was shiny steel joints, tendons visible all the way up to her upper arm. Sensitive tiny machinery connected the nerve endings to the steel bones. A waterproof titanium band covered the delicate mechanical works at the top and the wires and things that ran down her arm were located in the steel ‘bones’ where they were protected.

(A/N: Think Anakin Skywalker’s hand at the end of Star Wars II.)

Carolyn stuck her metal hand into the water and pulled out the dress. She noticed a rack for drying towels in a corner of the bathroom so she dumped the towels in a pile on the floor and hung her gown up to dry.

She moved back to the tub and let the water out. There was a dark ring around the tub where some dye had left its mark on the smooth marble surface. Carolyn turned on the shower and washed the dye down the drain before stripping and stepping into the shower. She scrubbed away the dirt and grime of Grolier Classic until her skin tingled.

Then she tackled her left arm. The blue dye did not relinquish its hold on the metal easily and when she finished, the washcloth was a nice blue color. She dropped it to the floor with a wet plop.

When she stepped out of the shower forty-five minutes later it was almost time to go. She shut off the shower and toweled off with an outrageously fluffy towel before having a look at the dress. It was now completely dry.

She found the bottom and slipped it over her head. After a few moments tugging at it, the hemline settled down around her feet where it was supposed to me. Straightening things out she went to the floor length mirror to have a look.

The gown was rather pretty now that it was deep blue and not an old gray porridge color. It hung from a one inch strap over the right shoulder, clung all the way down to the lower hips, then it just simple hung to swish around the tops of her feet. It was light, airy, and comfortable. When she twirled it flared out partially.

Carolyn was satisfied. Most importantly it covered the scars on her back but it also was not too extravagant. Not in any way did it encumber her movements. That would be useful for the endeavors to come.

The only problem remaining was what to do about her left arm. She could not very well wear her black canvas glove but she sure as HELL wasn’t letting anyone see her left arm. Namely Riddick. She held out her left arm and studied it. It disgusted her and yet was incredibly useful. She could crush pretty much anything softer than steel.

Carolyn growled at her reflection before exiting the bathroom and returning to Attila and Ra and pirouetting for them.

“You look lovely, my lady,” Attila complimented her.

“Nice,” Ra said, or rather grunted.

Carolyn blushed slightly. It had been a long time since she’d received a compliment on her appearance. She glanced down at her left arm.

“I’m going back to the closet,” she announced.

Attila nodded, not really paying attention anymore and Ra did not say anything. Carolyn walked back to the closet. On its floor there were shoes lined up neatly in rows along with small boxes stacked neatly on top of each other. Carolyn got down on her hands and knees to investigate the shoes and boxes.

She made a strangled choking noise of disgust. Every single one of those shoes were four to five inch stilettos.

“Like hell I’ll wear those,” she muttered shoving them into a heap in the back of the closet.

She turned to the boxes. All were filled with black gaudy jewelry save for the last. To her delight it contained black silk gloves. She found a pair that extended just above her mechanical workings on her left arm. She discarded its mate and pulled on the left one. Then she left the bedroom for the last time.

Coming into the main room she discovered that Attila had packed her clothes into her satchel. He’d donned his kilt, and regal Egyptian jewelry. Ra’s armor and deadly weapons were polished to perfection and they were both standing silently, waiting for her. They eyed her bare feet but did not say anything.

“Ra will take our stuff to the ship so we can make a quick getaway. In the meantime, lets enjoy the party,” Attila informed her.

The chibbit jumped onto her shoulder and she followed her friends into the now pitch black hallway that was pulsating with loud music and dancing swaying bodies.

It was more like a rave than a ball.

---

It was a wild undulating frenzy in the dark. People were pressed flush up against one another, bumping, grinding, and jumping up in down, dancing in the dark. And it was dark save for the colored strobe lights. This was a far different dark than the planet. It was a hot, velvet, musky smelling dark.

The crowd was everywhere. The dark halls and open spaces were choked with people. Dancing and drinking hard liquor from crystal flutes. Shouts and drunken yells could barely be discerned from the loud music.

Carolyn raised her arms up to her face in a kind of protective gesture and pushed her way through the crowd after Attila. It was so hard to keep up with him. The throbbing beat of the rhythmic, seductive music was pounding its way into her skull. The smell of alcohol, sweat, musk, and something smoky that was probably a drug, filled the air.

She suddenly stopped short. Attila was gone. She could not see his tall familiar form anymore by the flashing light of the strobes. Carolyn looked all around her. All she could see in this dark flashing place were Necromongers, men and women dressed in fancy revealing clothes, jumping up and down to the overpowering music.

Carolyn mentally squashed the first panicked feelings of claustrophobia and stood still. Warm moving bodies pressed flush up against her on all sides. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then opened them. Her heart leapt.

She breathed a sigh of relief. A huge figure had loomed up before her.

‘Took you long enough to realize I wasn’t there, Attila,’ she thought.

She began to move towards it but a passing strobe revealed caramel skin instead of black fur, and silvered eyes instead of blue. This time, without a doubt, Richard B. Riddick was looking straight at her.

They stared at each other for what seemed like forever. She was frozen to the spot and he seemed made of stone. Those silvered eyes held her motionless Then he began to move towards her and that immediately broke the spell. Carolyn turned and wormed her way into the crowd.

She moved fast, weaving and shoving where necessary. After a few moments, she came to the end of the hall where there was a large statue of a Necromonger lord in the act of triumph over his enemies. Carolyn pushed herself into the small space behind it and caught her breath. She rested her cheek on the smooth blessed cool stone while the chibbit pressed up against her, mewling.

Carolyn stroked its fur. She could guess that it did not like the noise, the people, and the disgusting choking smell of the smoke. Carolyn could smell it, but it had no effect on her. The collar she wore filtered it all out before the effects could set in. The chibbit calmed, but made no move to leave her shoulders.

Carolyn peaked slowly out from behind the statue. Riddick had disappeared. She breathed another sigh of relief but nearly screamed when she felt something tickling her ear. Attila’s British voice soon put her mind at ease. His muzzle was right next to her ear and it was his whiskers that tickled her.

“The chip vault is under the throne room. The switch is located right underneath the Lord Marshall’s throne. It’s a combination lock. Turn it five clicks left, four right, and three left. That will raise a sort of door handle in the center of the throne room. Pull the handle out and turn it. The door to the vault will slid open. Be careful, you’ll only have fifteen minutes before the doors will close again. Good luck, and feel free to wreck hell.”

Then he was gone.

Carolyn stood still behind the statue. The chibbit chattered at her, telling her to do what needed to be done, then haul ass out of that nasty smelling environment. She looked at the undulating crowd then laughed at the irony of it all.

Carolyn adjusted the chibbit on her shoulder then plunged into the crowd. It pressed in on her but she kept pushing her way through. The people on either side of her were too drunk to notice the small blond slave that kept forcing her way through the crowd, or the chibbit on her shoulder.

People bumped into her as she moved along, sometimes she felt as though she were being smothered. A Caucasian man in his late forties with a braided black topknot and two crystal flutes of something that was most definitely hardcore booze bumped into her. He was quite drunk.

“Hey hic sweetheart. Come have a hic drink with me,” he slurred.

Carolyn looked around. There were no breaks in the crowd where she could slip through and she mentally slapped her forehead. Of all the dirty rotten luck. Now that she actually knew what she was about, she got held up by some reprobate with a drinking problem. The man handed her one of the crystal flutes, then began to chug the other one. His grossly large Adam’s apple bobbed with each gulp.

Carolyn stared at her glass. There was a dark stain that looked suspiciously like lipstick around the rim. Make that dirty reprobate. She wrinkled her nose in distaste and sniffed at the liquid. She wouldn’t put it past this Necromonger leach to slip her the mickey. Ah, it was vodka. And vodka was over 45 proof. Vodka would burn beee-utifully.

Carolyn took a firm grip on her flute, gave the man a false, radiant smile, then hurriedly pushed her way through a break in the crowd.

The man called drunkenly after her, begging her to stay. His voice faded as she moved steadily away. The chibbit leaned over in an attempt to sniff at the drink in her hand. Carolyn raised it out of the way. Drunk chibbits would be a liability to Attila and Ra’s dastardly evil plans concerning Necropolis.

She saw, across the room she was currently in, a set of elaborate doors.

‘Bingo, there’s the throne room,’ she thought.

She pushed through the crowd and pressed up against the doors. The chibbit turned around on her shoulder and chattered, obviously wishing to remove itself from this distasteful environment. Carolyn jiggled the door handle, which was in the shape of a hissing serpent. It was unlocked.

She cautiously opened the door wide enough to slip though. Closing it, the sounds of the shouting, singing, and music were abruptly muted. Carolyn turned and stopped short. This room she’d entered was most definitely NOT the throne room.

Like everywhere else, the theme was black, black, and more black. Maybe a little gray if they were daring. Cold black marble made up the whole room. It was so cold under Carolyn’s bare feet. Black drapes were hung from the walls. Over at the far corner of the room stood a large bed with black silk sheets and a large mahogany bedstead.

The chibbit sprang from Carolyn’s shoulder and landed lightly on the cold floor. But it did not explore as it usually would. It stayed close by her ankles, the hair on the scruff of its neck raised. It felt colder here than it did out in the room. There was a underlying malice present, in the very air.

The hairs on the nape of her neck raised. At the slight click of the door she wielded around. The door began to open. Carolyn darted to one of the black drapes and hid under its folds while the chibbit scampered underneath the bed. All Carolyn could see of it were its enormous yellow eyes.

The door was flung wide and Dame Vaako strode in followed by her husband, Vaako. He was livid while she seemed to have a fevered eagerness about her.

“Riddick is only human, my lord. You must see this,” she said.

“He is Lord Marshall and leader of the Necromonger people,” Vaako hissed.

Dame Vaako stepped up to him and tried to placate him, “Defeat him and will be a god in their eyes. Riddick is a mere mortal, he has human weaknesses. Not like our last dear departed Lord Marshall, hmmm?”

Vaako looked at her contemptuously, “You’re a fool, woman.”

He walked through a door leading to the rest of their suite and slammed the door.

Dame Vaako was breathing sharply through her nose, trying to control her anger.

“He’ll thank me later,” she muttered.

She crossed the room and pulled two shiny black obsidian goblets from a black oak cabinet. She set them on a long oak table, then she retrieved a crystal jug filled with a clear liquid from under the bed. Carolyn held her breath. One tilt of the Dame Vaako’s head and the chibbit would be in plain view. But she didn’t turn her head and the chibbit was safe.

Dame Vaako filled the goblets to the brim and them set them side by side on the table. Most likely more alcohol. She pulled a small paper packet from inside her clothes, carefully ripped I open, and dumped its white powdery contents into the goblet on the right, farthest from Carolyn. Dame Vaako hid the wrapper and made a show of dusting her hands.

“Oh Riddick. If only you’d picked me to be your consort. We would have been unstoppable! Nothing the galaxy has to offer could have withstood us! But you scorned me. I would have given myself to you freely but you scorned me! That just can’t be forgiven Riddick. No one says no to Dame Vaako like that. Goodbye Richard B. Riddick.,” she said with an odd little breathy laugh.

‘The woman’s mad,’ Carolyn thought.

“Here I come Riddick. You can’t come through on top this time. There is no one here to save you,” Dame Vaako muttered.

She walked to the doors to her suite, opened them, and stepped out. For a moment Carolyn could hear clearly the music and smell the smoky musk outside the room before Dame Vaako shut the doors firmly behind her.

---

Carolyn looked left and right before stepping out into the middle of the room. She guessed she didn’t have much time until Dame Vaako returned. Most likely with Riddick. Carolyn looked at the two goblets. She had guessed that the white powder was a poison, most likely cyanide.

She didn’t have any way to remove the poison and there was no way of saving Riddick that she could see. Unless of course he’d built of a resistance to cyanide which was HIGHLY unlikely. Even for him. It was one of the most deadly poisons known to man.

Carolyn wasted precious seconds standing there thinking. Then she stepped up to the table and deftly exchanged the goblets’ places. It was the oldest trick in the book, but it was worth a shot.

She hid again in the black folds of the drapes and waited. She glanced at the chibbit only to see that it was gone. That panicked her a bit before she saw the fat furry tail of the chibbit disappearing under the hem of the drapes. A moment later she felt it scratching at her gown as it clawed its way up to her shoulder.

The chibbit purred as she rubbed the thick fur on its chest. It affectionately investigated her ear with its tiny wet nose and Carolyn choked on her laughter. The chibbit’s whiskers was tickling her ear.

It was a good thing she reined in her laughter. Dame Vaako threw the doors to her suite wide open and walked in. Her entrance was quite different than the last time. She sashayed in, her rear end swaying like a professional pole dancer in Vegas. Carolyn Fry was severally disgusted.

Richard B. Riddick followed Dame Vaako in and shut the doors. Dame Vaako jumped slightly as the doors shut but she recovered quickly.

Carolyn stopped watching Dame Vaako and focused entirely on Riddick. He’d changed from his Necromonger armor back to the black tank top, black cargo pants, and heavy black combat boots. His goggles rested on his forehead as he watched Dame Vaako pretend to bustle about the nonexistent kitchen.

She set Riddick’s goblet before him, the one she though contained the poison. But it didn’t. Carolyn wanted to cackle villainously. Take that bitch.

“You honestly think I’m gonna drink that shit?” Riddick asked, amused.

Dame Vaako laughed at him. She felt in complete control of the situation as she took a long drink from her goblet.

“You don’t trust me Riddick?” she laughed.

“Nope.”

Dame Vaako laughed again. Then her laugh turned into a choking gag. Foam appeared at the sides of her mouth and she doubled over, clutching her gut. She looked up at Riddick who was watching her, grinning in that infuriating way of his. She stumbled over to him, lips pulled back in a snarl, but she collapsed before she got within a foot of him. Her body twitched a few times before she finally was still.

Dame Vaako was dead.

Riddick stared at her body a moment before laughing out loud. “Bit in the ass with your own shit!”

He left, still laughing.

Carolyn waited a moment before cautiously emerging from the drapes. The chibbit sprang from her shoulder and scampered over to Dame Vaako’s body and sniffed it. It sneezed, then hissed at the motionless cadaver.

Carolyn walked over to the corpse and put two fingers under its jaw just to be sure. There was no pulse.

A strangled choking noise from the other side of the room made her jerk her head up. Vaako was standing there looking as though he’d been hit in the face with a lead mallet. But Vaako was not stupefied for long. He’d been a soldier all of his life and it didn’t pay to easily surprised.

He wrenched a large wickedly curved battle axe from the wall and rushed at her. Carolyn wildly threw the crystal flute containing the vodka at a torch on the wall and scooped up the chibbit. She fled with Vaako hot on her heels.

There was a loud explosion as the vodka combusted. The flames quickly consumed the drapes on the wall and the sheets on the bed. The oak furniture fueled its lust for food even more.

Carolyn slammed into the doors and they flew open. She barreled into the surprised crowd that began to panic when they realized that their ship was now one fire and burning quite well.

People screamed in confusion and panic and began to run wildly about. Bumping into one another like headless chickens. Carolyn dodged this way and that, trying to lose the crazed man who stayed at least three steps behind her. It was difficult to avoid being trampled by the crowd and cleaved in two by the man behind her.

She spied a small door off to the left and slammed into it. It was unlocked and she careened into the empty hallway behind it. Vaako followed with a roar and swung the axe down. Carolyn threw herself away from it and she crashed into the wall, dislodging the chibbit. The chibbit bounded away and was gone.

Vaako’s gauntleted hand closed over her throat and began to squeeze. His crazed eyes held only death for her. Carolyn choked and slammed her knee up between his legs. Vaako gasped and doubled over. Carolyn fled down the hall but he was soon up and after her.

They played the cat and mouse game for what seemed like ages. It was getting harder and harder to stay ahead of him. Carolyn’s breathing was harsh and she was clutching the agonizing stitch in her side. Vaako’s toned soldier’s body was conditioned though. His prey would not elude him for long.

Carolyn spied a staircase to her right and took the steps three at a time. But at the top her luck ran out. She tripped on the last step and skidded to a halt. In front of a pair of heavy black combat boots.

Richard B. Riddick was not looking at her however. He had his shiv in one hand and a notched Necromonger scimitar in the other. Carolyn stared up at him for a moment before dropping her head. She was exhausted. The chibbit peeked around from behind Riddick’s boots and pushed Carolyn’s shoulder with its head. She groaned softy and didn’t move. Her tired body was taxed to the limit.

Vaako watched the display for a moment, then gave an insane shriek and rushed at Riddick. Riddick calmly stepped over the motionless woman at his feet and met Vaako in battle.

---

Riddick was still laughing as he strode easily from the Vaako suite. What an ironic way to go. Riddick had witnessed a lot of weird deaths in his life, but this had to be one of the more amusing ones. He chuckled again. Dame Vaako would neither be missed or be cried over.

Serves that woman right. If she even could be classified as a woman. Always trying to get ahead. She didn’t care who she hurt as long as she came out on top. Sure, Riddick had done his fair share of backstabbing and murder, but even he had boundaries.

Dame Vaako didn‘t give a damn about anyone, especially him. She had pretended to love him. Had tried to make love to him on more than one occasion. She’d tried to whisper sweetness in his ear. Tell him how strong and handsome he was. How great they would be together.

Dame Vaako reminded him of Johns. Ugh. Both were arrogant self-preserving jerks.

Riddick had thought about using her. Just to see the look on her face when she realized it had all been a scam. That he’d been playing her just to show her that he didn’t give shit about nobody.

But then THEY had popped into his head. Carolyn, Jack, and Imam. They had a habit of getting into his head whenever his humanity was in question. Ever since that perpetual on the planet.

He never forgot the fact that Carolyn Fry had come back for his sorry ass when he’d been all set to royally screw the whole lot of them over. She came back for him. He remembered lying there in the cold mud and rain, listening to the creatures singing and popping like freaking whales. His leg was bleeding like no other and he knew it was only a matter of time before all the mud he’d rolled in fooled the creature’s sense of smell. Only a matter of time before Miss Richard’s boy became alien shit.

He had cursed at himself, madder than anything that Richard B. Riddick had gone soft for a blond slip of a woman.

But then there she was. Pale face illuminated by that bug bottle that she’d made. She hadn’t hesitated but had gone straight to him, gripped him under his arms, and began to try to heave him to his feet. He remembered clearly what she’d said to him.

“Come on Riddick. I said I’d die for them, not for you.”

Not for me. He’d been all set to leave them but that flyboy pilot had convinced him to risk his freedom and go back for two bleeding passengers who had most likely died already. She displayed the most courage and integrity of anyone he’d ever met. At least, at the end. The planet had transformed the docking pilot named Carolyn Fry. And she died for him.

Not for me…irony was a bitch.

Irony had kicked him in the gut again when Jack had died. Kicked him when he discovered that she’d disappeared looking for him, kicked him when the Necromongers got a hold of her, and kicked him a third time when she’d lay dying because of him. He remembered the look on her face. She’d smiled at him, talked to him like a comrade, then died peacefully. No remorse.

She had always followed him like a little sister. They had had glorious adventures for a few years after dropping Imam off on New Mecca. Then came that run in with Toombs on Orion four. Jack had almost died when the ingrate tried to capture Riddick for the bounty on his head. That had opened his eyes. Jack would not be safe with him. Would never ever be safe with him. So he’d gone back to New Mecca with her on the pretense that they would be visiting Imam. And he left her there. Never looked back

But then she died trying to save him. As she lay dying, she gave him a smile. Carolyn had given him that same gentle smile as the monsters killed her. As if she were apologizing because she could not help him the entire way.

First Carolyn, then Imam. Jack had been the last straw. Richard B. Riddick had learned his lesson about forming emotional attachments to people. They only got themselves killed.

Riddick shook his head, pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind. He’d done enough thinking about the past. And it never got him anywhere. He was just NOT going to go there; he had promised himself that a long time ago. Ever since he’d become king of Necropolis.

Hah. Now that was an amusing thought. If those trigger happy mercs from the Company could see him now. Riddick chuckled.

He was in a very good mood by the time he broke free of the rave and reached the sanctuary of his chambers. His rooms were completely dark and he welcomed that beautiful darkness with a satisfied sigh. He lifted his goggles to rest on his forehead and massaged his temples.

Ugh, what a day.

He ambled over to his huge bed and lay there, feeling his muscles loosen and relax. Riddick closed his eyes with absolutely no intention of going to sleep. Not right now. This place, no matter how many people bowed and respectfully called him Lord Marshall, was full of back stabbing hypocrites. And since he’d been the last person in the Vaako suite, he wouldn’t put it past Vaako to attempt to assassinate him for seemingly killing his wife.

Riddick sighed and lay still, feeling the darkness sing to him. He didn’t know how long he lay there, in a sort of catatonic state, but he was jerked out of it by a light pressure on his chest. His eyes shot open to find himself almost eyeball to eyeball with a strange rabbit like creature.

‘Chibbit,’ his brain told him.

Riddick kept his eyes locked with the chibbit’s and slowly reached for his shiv. He was not in the mood to deal with some dame’s lap rat. He gripped the smooth cold steel handle for a moment before he slashed at it. Riddick was quick but the chibbit was quicker.

It sprang from his chest to the floor and darted underneath the bed. Riddick sat up and looked around. His shined eyes revealed no chibbit in the room. Riddick slowly leaned over the side of the bed. He was slightly surprised to discover the space under the bed devoid of chibbit.

He grabbed the headboard and pulled himself back up only to discover that the chibbit was now sitting between his shins. Riddick stared at the chibbit a moment before reaching for it. It backed away so he dropped his shiv on the bedside table. Then he reached for it again.

Riddick lifted up the chibbit, holding it under its front legs. Fur bunched up around Riddick’s fingers while the rest of the chibbit’s body down. Like a cat. The chibbit seemed resigned to being held in such an undignified manner.

Riddick studied it. It wasn’t dangerous, but it could still be very annoying. He had an urge to feed it to one of those Necromonger zombies. Then the chibbit’s thin chain collar caught his eye. There was a thing blond curl wrapped in and around the small links.

Riddick slowly reached for the curl and untangled it. Then he raised it to his lips and breathed in its scent. The familiar scent overwhelmed his senses and made his lips tingle. Carolyn Fry.

Riddick examined the curl, then the glanced at the chibbit. It stared at him purposefully for a moment, then deliberately sunk it’s tiny teeth into his knee. Riddick snarled at it and in one fluid motion, grabbed his shiv. Only to find that the chibbit was sitting at the door to his chambers, watching him expectantly. It reached up and scratched the door, mewling piteously. Riddick sighed and slowly got to his feet.

“All right, I’ll play your little game, ya little space rat. But don’t you bite me any more.”

Riddick pulled his goggles down securely over his eyes before opening the door and stepping out into the hallway. He shut his door firmly. The chibbit had bounded ahead of him down the hall and was now looking at him.

‘Rather anxiously,’ Riddick thought, ‘So the rat’s worried about something. Or someone.’

Once the chibbit saw Riddick was following it took off down the hall. Riddick ran silently after it. He grinned, thinking how amusing the seen they made. The all powerful Lord Marshall being led by a slave’s space rat.

The chibbit led him down halls, through corridors, and across rooms. It always kept away from the crowd.

‘Must not like it,’ Riddick mused.

In that he found a kindred spirit.

Finally they entered a wide open room at the head of a small staircase. The chibbit stopped abruptly then scampered forward a few paces. It’s whiskers twitched vigorously. A cry echoed up the stairwell followed by an angry roar. On a second thought, Riddick stepped to the wall and wrenched a curved scimitar from the hand of a stone effigy. He waited motionlessly.

The chibbit crept around behind him to peer cautiously out from behind his boots. Riddick glanced at it and laughed. Then he turned his head to stare at the opening.

The sounds were coming closer and closer. He could hear soft bare footfalls mingled with heavy booted ones. He could hear the masculine grunts of someone as they hefted a heavy weapon while they attempted to cleave some unfortunate person in two. That unfortunate someone was breathing harshly as they struggled up the staircase, desperately trying to stay ahead of their pursuer .

Carolyn Fry burst into view. Her face was flushed, her pupils were dilated in fear, and their was a dark purple bruise around her throat. She reached the second to last step, but her foot caught on the last. She tripped and slid across the floor to lay sprawled at Riddick’s feet.

He ignored her and focused on the man charging into the room like a raging bull. Vaako. Vaako stopped, stupefied at seeing Riddick and unsure of himself. Riddick knew this stupor would not last long. He could feel the adrenaline surging through him and the bloodlust singing in his veins.

Already Riddick was being suppressed by the brutal animal within. Riddick pulled off his goggles and dropped them on the floor. Vaako had stopped looking at him and was now regarding the broken woman lying at Riddick’s feet with a kind of insane hunger.

Vaako’s rage gained the better of him and he lunged at Carolyn. The axe whistled through the air like the Grim Reaper’s scythe. Riddick grinned a feral little smile and stepped over Carolyn. He relished the shock running up his arm as Vaako’s blade clashed with his scimitar. Riddick was in his element.

The fight was on.

---

Carolyn lay motionless against the frigid marble floor. Its icy coldness felt soothing against her flushed cheeks. She groaned, her eyes still closed. She wasn’t sure who’s side Riddick was on, but at least it wasn’t Vaako’s. She could feel her racing heartbeat finally slow down and become steady.

The chibbit pushed up against her should with its head. Carolyn stayed motionless. It continued to try to get a reaction from the her but still no response. This chibbit gave up and let her be. It turned to watch the fight with an interest reminiscent of a creature regarding a potential predator.

Riddick had settled into an easy fighting pattern of the cat playing with the mouse. He was easily blocking all of Vaako’s furious reckless attacks but not making any offensive moves. He was in control of the situation. He seemed to merely be showing Vaako who was the superior fighter.

And Vaako was realizing it.

Where Riddick was quiet and passive, Vaako was breathing harshly. His face was a bright red that accompanied his ragged breathing. Riddick meanwhile had that look on his face. The confident air of a predator who knows his prey is weakening.

Riddick was moving in for the kill when a ferocious explosion rocked the ship. The two men swayed and fought for balance. Dust was shaken from the ceiling along with a few loose Necro-ornaments. Vaako lurched away from Riddick as the ground finally stopped spazing.

They were about to go at it again when another explosion rocked the ship. Vaako hesitated for a moment before throwing down his weapon and bolting for the door, screaming as he went.

“Riddick has betrayed the faith! I am now Lord Marshall! He’s in a plot to destroy us all!”

Riddick watched him go with an amused look on his face. ‘Coward,’ he thought disdainfully.

Carolyn had drawn herself up onto her knees and had her head bowed. Her heart had settled down to a steady beat as opposed to the frantic racing a few moments ago. She sat there a moment. Then Riddick’s boots appeared in her sightline. She looked up. Riddick bent over and offered her his hand. Carolyn did not move. She just kept her stoic face and looked up at him.

“Take my hand,” Riddick said quietly in his deep bass rumble.

An order. As a slave, she would have to comply. Carolyn put her small thin hand in his large calloused one. Riddick pulled her roughly to her feet and grasped her chin firmly. Carolyn was stuck and could not move, even if she’d wanted to.

“What’s your name?” Riddick asked, his voice low and dangerous.

Carolyn hesitated, then said, “Abigail Lee.”

Riddick continued to study her, then he dropped her hand. Carolyn stood there watching him, she had absolutely no idea as to what she should do. Riddick stood there, seemingly waiting for her to make the first move.

Luckily the choice was taken from her when a third explosion tore though the ship. This one was quite close. The floor broke apart between them and the growing chasm widened. The ship did not settle, but continued to lurch and sway. Carolyn stumbled to her feet and scooped up the chibbit. Smoke and dust was filling the air and it was difficult to breath, even with the collar.

She glanced over at Riddick. He was leaning against the wall, struggling to keep his balance despite the thrashing of the ship. Carolyn turned and began to leave, making her way across the room. She had to reach the throne room. She still had to retrieve as many chips from the vault as possible. They each were a life that was stolen. They were people that had to be saved.

Suddenly, Riddick was right next to her. “Where’re we going Carolyn?”

Carolyn glanced at him, startled. She said nothing. They jogged down the hall, side by side.

Riddick waited for her response, then laughed out loud. “Quite messing with me Carolyn, I know it’s you.”

“Yeah it’s me,” Carolyn snapped, “Who’d you think it was?”

Riddick laughed again, then said, “I dunno. I just got the word that your noodle was jellied by the Predators.”

Carolyn grinned. “Yeah, I know.”

Another explosion shook the Necromonger mothership. Without thinking about what she was doing, she grabbed his hand and yanked him into an all out run.

“Where are we going?” Riddick asked again, obviously amused at her frantic behavior.

Now that the tearful reunion was over, Carolyn found herself already becoming fed up with his sass in serious situations. Riddick had a way of doing that to a person. But then again they were most likely, and she couldn’t be sure because this was Riddick she was talking about, on the same side. So it was safe to let him in on: The Plan.

“Attila and Ra are rescuing Aereon , the elemental.”

“We’ve met,” Riddick said shortly.

Carolyn continued, “After they get her, they create havoc on their way to our ship. I’m supposed to steal as many chips from the vault as I can.”

“What’s the vault, and the chips?” Riddick asked.

They turned a corner and ran down the stairs. Or rather Carolyn ran, Riddick just jumped them all. The chibbit sprang from her arms to bound before them down the way, as though acting the guide.

“You don’t know-” Carolyn was confused. Riddick was Lord Marshall, he should be the first to know

“No, I don’t. Tell me Carolyn.”

“Well, Til said that the people the Necros’ convert have their brains scanned onto a computer chip before they’re wiped. I’m gonna get as many as I can.”

Riddick was quiet

“Kyr-Jack got brainwashed,” Riddick said quietly.

She glanced sharply at him and almost ran into a wall. “What?”

“Imam’s dead, and so is Jack.”

Carolyn skidded to a halt. “WHAT?”

She felt as though she‘d been hit in the chest with a lead weight. She couldn’t breath for a moment. Imam and Jack dead. That was something she could have never forseen.

“You were supposed to keep them safe!” Carolyn shouted.

She was so angry, she was ready to kill him.

“I did the best I could,” Riddick growled.

He gripped her upper arm harder than he normally might and tugged her back into a run. Carolyn felt tears of desperation and hopelessness prickle at the corners of her eyes. But she sure as hell wasn’t going to cry in front of Riddick. So she swallowed her tears, blinked furiously, and hoped he hadn’t noticed.

They turned a corner and the great doors to the throne room loomed up before them. Carolyn sprinted up to them and jiggled the ornate brass handle. The great doors were locked. She gave a strangled scream of frustration and smacked to cool metal. She only received a stinging palm for her troubles.

“Get out of the way, Carolyn.”

She looked back at him, startled. Then her eyes widened as she realized what he was about to do. Carolyn grabbed up the chibbit and hurriedly got out of his way.

Riddick backed up a ways before running and slamming into the doors with enough force to knock over a medium sized elephant. The doors shook and the hinges groaned, but they held. Riddick backed up and did it again.

The doors to the throne room were solid steel three inches thick, but the hinges were aluminum. And the hinges were certainly not Riddick proof. At his third blow, the hinges were blasted from their casings and bolts and screws shot out like miniature rockets. The doors fell in with a loud crash.

Carolyn jumped onto the fallen doors and scanned the room. Coast clear. She stepped into the room. The chibbit squirmed in her arms, wanting to be free to explore. She let go and jogged over to the Lord Marshall’s throne.

“Where’s the switch?” Riddick asked.

“Combination lock under the throne exposes a switch that opens the vault,” Carolyn grunted, groping under the throne for a knob, dial, anything.

Her scrambling fingers located a dial. It was round and perfectly smooth with no grooves or crack to indicate the amount of clicks needed. She growled in frustration and stuck her head under the chair. Ah, there.

She pushed a switch on the floor which projected the click lines by laser. Carefully, she turned the dial. Five, four, and three. With a hissing noise of released compressed air, five tiles in the center of the room slid back. The handle rose up and was stationary. A bit of released gas swirled around the floor around it.

Riddick strode across to it and turned the handle. A portion of the wall to the right of the throne slid up to reveal a long dark gray room about six yards long and two yards in diameter. The walls, from the low ceiling to the floor, were covered with tiny drawers two inches in diameter and an inch high. Little lights flickered on, forming rows on the floor.

Carolyn and Riddick started for the door.

“THERE THEY ARE!”

They turned to find Vaako standing in the doorway backed by a whole squadron of infantry troops. They were armed to the teeth and practically salivating for a fight.

Riddick glanced at Carolyn, then turned away from her to face Vaako and his men. He fixed them with a lazy, deadly smile. He swung the scimitar casually in one hand.

“I’ll keep them off your back, Carolyn.”

She nodded and darted into the vault, accompanied by the chibbit. Fifteen minutes was all she had, Attila had said. Then the doors would close.

Carolyn trusted Riddick to a certain extent, but she wasn’t entirely sure he would let her out if the doors closed on her. He had saved her, but one could never be entirely sure what Riddick would do. She decided it was best if she didn’t try her luck.

She spied a leather carrying case in the corner of the room, to the right of the door. She slung it over her shoulder with a surprised grunt. It was heavier than she’d imagined. Must be a lead lining to protect the chips.

Carolyn shivered, it was freezing in the vault. Her breath plumed out in front of her as a little white cloud and the misty condensation on the floor curled around her feet. She jumped from foot to foot, the floor was freezing her feet.

She jumped slightly as a barbed spear came whistling past her from the open door way. Carolyn looked out the doorway to check on Riddick. He looked calm and serene as he methodically cut down Vaako’s men. But a sheen of sweat covered his body and his tank top was soaked. The Necromongers were not as skilled as Riddick was, but there were more of them. They continually replenished their numbers while Riddick was obviously becoming more and more exhausted.

She hurriedly turned back to her task. The drawers were in alphabetical order by first name.

Carolyn went cold. Jack was hardly the girl’s real name. It had just been a cover, a way of protecting herself. The machine that stored the information on the chips would not be fooled by an alias. It would obtain the person’s true name from their brain patterns

Carolyn mentally went back to when she’d tracked down the System the girl had been forced into. Turned out they had records on all the kids they’d ever trapped. It was a simple matter to put a bug in the system and then hack it. She snorted. Amateurs.

What was her true name? She’d always been Jack in Carolyn’s head. Carolyn wanted to kill herself for forgetting.

A, A something. Addie, Aubrey,…..Audrey. Yes, that was it. Audrey.

Each of the drawers had a little brass plaque that displayed the person’s name.

Carolyn grimaced. She was in the J’s.

Okay, moving back….. Jeremy… Jacqueline… Irene… and……

Carolyn froze. It couldn’t be.

But the name on the little brass plate was clear. Imam.

Imam had been scanned?

With shaking hands, she unzipped the case to reveal a white plastic interior. There were four little handles in neat rows. She took hold of one and pulled up. A honeycomb of little slots for chips was revealed. She counted twenty little slots. So, twenty times for and she’d be able to get eighty chips. In theory.

Carolyn doubted she would have the time to even get ten. So far Riddick was holding the Necromongers’ off but she did not know how long he could last. He was only human.

She’d also have to take her time. It would be so easy to damage the fragile chips.

She keyed open Imam’s little drawer and pulled a pair of stainless steel forceps from the bag. The chip was submerged in an anti-corroding fluid.

She carefully took the forceps and eased them around Imam’s chip. She slowly lifted it out and let it drip for a moment before sliding it into one of the little slots.

Then she moved on, searching for Audrey’s name. Carolyn would NOT let either of them stay in this foul hellhole of wickedness and deceit .

Okay, A section. There it was, Audrey.

Carolyn reached up to open it when a familiar voice jolted her away from what she was doing. She turned to see Attila standing covered in blood, smoke, and grime. His sickles were gone but his double sided lotus spear was smeared with blood and entrails. He’d apparently been following through with his own advice about wrecking hell.

“Take what you have and let’s go! A new fleet will be here any moment. Ra’s prepping the ship, we have to leave now!” he shouted.

Carolyn turned her back on him.

“You go. I died for them once, I can do it again.”

---

Carolyn felt Attila’s probing gaze linger on her for a moment. Then she heard soft foot falls head away from her. Three seconds after that, the screams of the dieing Necromongers Riddick had been dispatching intensified. Attila was obviously assisting Riddick in the fight outside the chip room.

She returned to her task, carefully lifting Audrey’s chip from the solution and placing it in its slot. She gave Audrey’s and Imam’s chips a once over before zipping the case shut. Carolyn glanced regretfully at the other chips as she left the room. She felt bad that she was not able to get more, but it was the best that she could do under the circumstances.

She was barely out of the room when the doors hissed shut. The chibbit barely made it out; the door clipping some of the gray hairs at the tip of its tail.

Attila, covered in more blood than the last time she saw him, made his way over to her. The floor was starting to get messy with Nercomonger bodies and it was slippery with their blood. Attila gently took the carrying case from her and slung it over his own back. He handed Carolyn her longbow and quiver of arrows.

She strung it, nocked and arrow and let it fly. The arrow flew into a Necromonger soldier with a solid sounding thump and he toppled over like a dead chicken. She was too busy nocking another arrow to notice Riddick’s appreciative look.

“Where’d you learn to shoot that thing?” he asked.

“Paris taught me,” she answered quietly.

Riddick stared after her for a moment, and then chuckled. ‘Girl’s got spirit,’ he thought.

Carolyn pushed her hair out of her eyes and looked at her two companions. What parts of Riddick’s skin that was not covered in dirt and blood was glistening with sweat. His chest was heaving with each ragged breath but his grip on the scimitar was firm.

Attila had a very ferocious look on his face. His sharp white teeth were bared in a snarl and his blue eyes were narrowed to thin slits. He stepped uncaringly over the fallen Necromongers and strode towards the door. He turned towards the two humans.

“More will follow, we must get to the ship,” he said, then he turned to Riddick, “ I assume you will be accompanying us for the time being?”

Riddick shrugged and then nodded. “I got nothing better to do.”

They jogged from the room, Riddick pausing to grab some Necromonger plasma pulse rifles. Attila and Riddick ran side by side through the bowls of the ship with Carolyn following close behind.

The memory of their trip to the ship became a blur in Carolyn’s mind when she looked back on it. Somehow they managed to dodge all the groups of soldiers they encountered and make it back to Attila and Ra’s ship. Amazingly enough, it was not heavily guarded.

The small group sneaked into a small janitorial room a ways from the ship.

“Now we will wait for Ra and the elemental. Then we will make our attack on the guards,” Attila whispered.

“Nice ship. But they could decide to double the guard on the ship at any given moment,” Riddick whispered back.

Attila’s upper lip curled, displaying a fine array of white teeth. “I think you underestimate the skills of Ra and I. We have been fighting battles since long, long before you were born.”

Riddick blinked.

Attila turned to Carolyn and held out her leather satchel.

“Here, I took the liberty of retrieving your things. Change quickly,” he said.

Carolyn took the bag and then looked up at Riddick and Attila expectantly. Attila turned around immediately, after glaring at Riddick who turned around with a lazy, surly smile.

Carolyn stuck her tongue out at Riddick’s broad back (juvinille, but it made her feel better) before stripping and throwing on her old clothes. In five minutes she was done. She carefully adjusted the small leather belt over her canvas glove. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to let Riddick know about her impairment. Carolyn rubbed her left arm, frowning.

FLASH BACK

“Come on Riddick, I said I’d die for them, not you. Let’s move.”

And then, in a whirlwind of claws, fangs, and wings she’d been dragged away from him.

Carolyn had screamed in pain and frustration, beating at the monster with her fists as it tore mercilessly into her back. Undeterred, the monster flew on, anxious to get it’s prize to it’s nest. Then, out of the rain and the darkness, another one of the creatures had slammed into them.

The creatures had fought over her, each trying to get the upper hand in the dogfight for the tasty human morsel. And then, she was falling. One of the creatures tried to grab her again but it only succeeded in tearing of her left arm with its talons like razor blades.

She was falling, down, down through the rain.

‘Ah well, it could have been worse,’ she thought muzzily.

She didn’t even have the energy to scream as she slammed into the hard ground. The last thing she felt was the falling rain, splattering on her face.

END FLASH BACK

“Need any help babe?” Riddick asked, being his usual smart-ass self.

Carolyn blinked, having forgotten where she was.

“Not from you,” she snapped.

She bent to retrieve her white over shirt, all too aware of Riddick’s burning gaze on the thick ugly scars that snaked their way into her tank top. She threw her shirt on and folded the opening protectively across her chest.

Riddick’s expression had changed from saucy bad boy to cold stone. He stared at her a moment before turning and facing away from her.

Carolyn swallowed and felt even more the Quasimodo freak. If this was his reaction to a few scars on her back, well then let’s just say she’s glad she didn’t show Riddick her arm. Carolyn made sure she had her poker face on before rejoining Attila and Riddick.

Attila laid a hand on her shoulder. “I can hear the elemental, they are coming. Be ready to provide cover when Ra and Aereon come through the main doors.”

Carolyn nodded curtly and nocked an arrow. She steadied the deadly iron tip against her pointer finger and pulled the string back until it creaked from the tension. Then she waited, the arrow point pointing straight at the unsuspecting back of a Necromonger guard.

She waited for what seemed in an eternity, frozen in her hunter’s stance. And then the doors to the main hanger creaked open. Ra came striding into the room, but he did not remain in the visible spectrum for long. He shielded and began blasting away at the necro guards with his plasma cannon.

Behind him came three people; Carolyn had no idea who they were. A thin middle aged African woman had her small daughter by the hand and they followed Ra rather timidly. Behind then walked a old woman with white hair and flowing white robes.

‘That must be the elemental, Aeron,’ Carolyn thought.

The woman raised her arms and a small hurricane began to blow about the room, sending choice bits of dust flying straight into the eyes of the soldiers, who promptly dropped their weapons to rub at their eyes.

Carolyn shook herself and let her arrow fly. It buried into a soldier’s back with a solid thunking noise. She nocked another and let it fly, and then another, and another.

Attila swung his double ended lotus blades and snarled, the saliva dripping from his jaws. He joined Ra and they moved as one, cutting through the Necromonger soldiers like a hot spoon through mayonnaise.

Carolyn swallowed as she followed Riddick to the ship. The three of them, Riddick, Ra, and Attila, were all perfect killing machines. Different species, yes, but they all had a sort of fluid morbid grace about them when it came to what they did best.

Carolyn followed in the elementals wake as she herded the woman and her child up the boarding ramp. Attila had directed Riddick to the helm while he headed to the engine room. Ra was standing at the bottom of the ramp taking pot shots with his plasma cannon at the Necromongers peaking out from behind various structures around the room.

Carolyn made sure the woman and her daughter were strapped in. As she buckled the little girl into her seat, she found herself caught in the little girl’s intense gaze. Imam’s gaze. Large brown eyes, frightened, but determined. On a second thought, Carolyn deposited the chibbit in the girl’s thin arms. It immediately curled up in her lap as though there were no where else it would rather be.

Carolyn glanced at the woman, then at Riddick. His back was too her, and his trademark goggles in place. He was sitting in Attila’s seat as though it were made for him, punching buttons and flipping switches. Carolyn felt the ship come to life with a powerful hum underneath her.

She grabbed up an extra quiver filled with more arrows that was hanging on the wall, and went out to stand next to Ra. He was still calmly blasting away. Carolyn could smell the strong metallic odor coming from his plasma cannon, and it was starting to devealope an angry red hue around the rim. It was over heating.

She quickly nocked an arrow and took aim. A necromonger popped up and readied his pulse rifle. Carolyn got him before he even touched the trigger.

She had another arrow ready, but Ra touched her elbow. With a jerk of his head, he indicated the inside of the ship. Carolyn lowered her bow and they ran up the ramp. Ra punched in a code to bring up the ramp and seal the door.

Before they reached the helm, Ra went off to join Attila in the engine room. Carolyn proceeded to the helm to plunk down next to Riddick in the copilot’s seat. Riddick waited til she was strapped in before he opened the throttle.

The predator ship launched itself from the hanger and plowed through the Necromonger ships like a mad bird. Carolyn looked back out the aft view screen and was not surprised to see a swarm of maybe a dozen short range fighter’s coming up behind them.

“Where are the weapons’ controls?” Carolyn asked calmly.

“In ships like these, the weapons is always separate from the main controls. Simpler that way. They’re on a panel over there to your right.” Riddick never took his eyes from the main view screen.

Carolyn swiveld her chair and was faced with a not very complicated set of controls. It was actually quite simple. The ship’s hunting computer tracked the enemies and displayed their locations in red dots in a small grid screen on the panel. There were also several lovely buttons that would probably do terrible things, along with a joystick for more direct manual firing.

Carolyn cracked her knuckles.

“Come in to my parlor said the spider to the fly,” she muttered.

---

Carolyn plugged a computer chip into her collar. The chip would directly align her with the ship’s computer so to have better honing ability. She closed her eyes and leaned back in her chair, feeling the information flowing from the ship’s computer and into her collar. There it was processed and sent to her brain in the form of military strategy.

The grid flared to life, and Carolyn punched in the coordinates of one of the pursuing ships into the computer. The Predator ship locked onto the enemy ship’s signature. The buttons glowed red. Carolyn reached over to punch the button that the ship’s computer informed her was for specially modified thermonuclear rockets.

As her hand slammed into that beautiful button, Riddick threw the ship into the barrel role that even the computer could not compensate for, and the missiles spiraled off in a sort of dizzy Q shape before exploding harmlessly.

Carolyn glared at the back of his bald shiny head, and then keyed the computer’s targeting section over to manual. If he was going to insist with those stunts, she’d have to do this by herself. She was about to lock on one of the Necromonger fighters and give it hell, when she noticed Riddick keying in complex hyperspace codes into the ship’s computer.

Figures. He’d know all about that.

Carolyn let go of the controls and slouched in her seat. Weapons were pretty much useless in hyperspace. She was mostly upset and miffed that she didn’t at least get to utilize even a fraction of the Legend’s fantastically evil arsenal of deviously sinister weapons.

Riddick’s reflection in the view ports grinned saucily at her. And in those view seconds all hell broke loose.

One of the Necromonger fighters got a lucky shot in through the Legend’s shields, and it melted straight through the hull to the engines. The Legend floundered, and began to die. With the shields down, the attacking Necromongers retaliated with gusto.

Riddick swore violently, and for the next ten minutes curse words spewed from his mouth that would make Tony Montana blush. As Riddick struggled with the controls, Carolyn glanced over at Imam’s widow. She had a grim pinched expression on her face that had nothing to do with their perilous situation, and her slim brown hands were clamped firmly over her daughters’ ears.

Carolyn didn’t even have time to smirk. Attila popped his head out of the hatch leading and shouted something unintelligible. Roared it more like. Riddick left the controls immediately and practically threw himself down the steam belching hatchway.

Carolyn let out a strangled shriek and grabbed the controls, desperately trying to regain some ounce of control over the bucking ship while still dodging laser blasts from Necromonger fighters.

“Crap, crap, CRAP!”

How could that stinking loser of a convict do this to her?

Carolyn felt her calmness, and her nerves slowly fraying one by one. The ship was dying and it was all she could do to keep it alive, they had several Necromonger fighters on their tail and possible (most likely) arrival of Necromonger warships, and they only thing that stood between the Legend and certain death was a flyboy docking pilot that was about to snap and go berserk at any minute.

Carolyn felt her calmness give way to blind panic.

The ship rocked from another explosion. Or was it? Carolyn barely managed to dodge the next asteroid. And the next, and the next. It was a whole field of them. Carolyn’s panic gave way to a dastardly evil warmness that spread all the way to her toes.

The Circe-Gordon system was best known as a space mess. The star, Dis, was a huge class O red giant on the last leagues of it’s life. It had swollen so much that a supernova was imminent in the next few million years. All that was left in the system were two giant gas planets, orbiting each other so closely that their rings meshed into a chaotic soup that was constantly churning from their gravity. Not to mention the occasional comet that came tearing though the place, pulled in by Dis’s immense gravity, like a mad bull stuck by a matador.

Carolyn fed precious fuel to the engine, and the Legend limped into the turmoil that was the primordial rings of Charon and Proserpina.

Carolyn could not resist a giggle at the cleverness of the situation. Here, the Legend could rely on its plasma jets in order to save power, but still have quick maneuverability. Also, the Necromonger ships could not use a good portion of their arsenal in the belt.

Gloating session aside, she gritted her teeth and concentrated on flying the damn ship. Steering the broken and battered ship through the Charon Proserpina rings was like running a blind possum through a demolition derby with misshapen bowling balls ranging in size from a grapefruit to the London Eye.

As the ship was pelted for the third time in a row by a Hummer sized space rock, Carolyn could hear Ziza’s mother begin to pray softly in Arabic.

Carolyn sighed, decided that her skills weren‘t enough to keep this up, and opened a channel to the engine room. “Riddick, whatever you’re doing down there, get your tail up here. Now!”

He popped his head up out of the hatchway, all sweaty and covered in steam from the engine room. When he saw the condition of the Legend and it’s crew, he nearly had an aneurysm. Riddick sprang out of the hatchway and threw himself into the pilot’s chair, bowling Carolyn over in the process.

“What the hell have you done, woman?” he yelled, grappling with the controls.

Carolyn only glared up at him from her position on the floor, and continued to attempt to heave her legs out from under his.

“Insensitive jerk,” she muttered as she plunked into the co-pilot’s chair.

Riddick smiled, but didn’t comment. Carolyn swiveled her back over to face the weapons console and cracked her knuckles. She grabbed the joystick, locked a Necromonger ship in her gun sights, and fired. The moment her finger hit the red button, specially modified laser cannons perked up in their cradles and started to fire laser bursts at the Necromongers. A few minutes later, the battle scarred ship left the Circe-Gordon system with a few new additions. The new additions being a few radioactive Necromonger fighters that would float there until Dis exploded, pushing out new star material out into the universe.

The trip back to Furya was a silent one. Ra came up from the engine room to relieve Riddick from the helm and Riddick returned to help Attila with the spluttering engine.

Carolyn curled up in the co-pilots chair, and held the leather carrying case close. She ran her fingers slowly along the well oiled leather, thinking back to her time one the planet. Out of all of them, Imam and Jack had been least deserving of death. They had been innocent. Why did they have to die? She had been willing to die for them, in order to keep them safe but she still lost them.

Carolyn checked to see that the hatchway to the engine room was firmly secured. Then she buried her head in her arms and sobbed.

Her cheeks were dry by the time they landed in Furya and Riddick came up from the engine room.

---

Carolyn slung the chip bag over her shoulder, and followed Ra through the ship and down the lowered gangway. A small group of people awaited their arrival. One of the group was the familiar Furyan woman who’d paid for their drinks in the small Furyan pub.

The woman strode up to Ra and began to grill him about their mission. Ra answered her questions in his traditional stoic manner. It took a while to get things all wrapped up, which included some wild gestures on the woman’s part, but eventually they got it worked out.

“Oh, one more thing, those carriers you wanted are waiting in SickBay 05,” the woman finished.

Then she left, taking her formidable looking retinue with her, along with the elemental Aeron

Attila descended the gangway with Riddick, Imam’s widow, and her daughter in tow. Riddick had his goggles firmly clamped over his eyes, and his normal stoic expression firmly in check. Carolyn could see a muscle working in his temple, and for a moment she wondered what he could be so worked up about.

Then she saw the chibbit who was clawing it’s way up the back of his left leg, hooking it’s little nails into his shirt, and crouching on the top of his head.

Riddick growled and the chibbit scampered over to Carolyn where the harbors were much safer.

Carolyn chuckled and vigorously scratched the scruff of its neck. The chibbit soon forgot its fright, like it did everything else, and purred happily.

Attila stepped up to the group. “If you’ll all follow me, please.”

He turned and strode off through the doors leading into the Furyan world. The rest of the rag-tag band followed him; Imam’s widow keeping a firm grip on her wide eyed daughter as she showed a eager delight in wandering off.

They retraced the trio’s steps to the familiar glass elevator, but instead of going up it went swiftly down for about seven floors.

Where as the floor they’d left was loud, vibrant, and noisy, this one was the exact opposite. It was silent and sterile. People in blue robes walked quickly through the various halls, some drawn and tired looking but most cheerful and quiet. It was all together a pleasant and calming place.

Carolyn clutched the leather bag close to her chest, and followed Attila closely as he made his way down one of the many halls. He stopped outside a door that looked exactly like the others to talk to one of the blue robed people.

They stood there for sometime, muttering in hushed voices, but finally the man unlocked the door and ushered them inside.

Like the rest of the hospital floor, the room’s walls’ were a clean white and they seemed to glow slightly because of the strategically placed lighting. The room was devoid of anything save for two medical tables side by side in the center of the room.

On the tables were two naked, sexless bodies, obviously human. They lay there motionless.

A doctor in a blue robe was standing quietly next to one of the tables. Carolyn decided he was one of the oddest sentient beings she’d ever seen. His skin was dead white, and his florescent glowing yellow eyes were sharp and staring. He had various scars all over his body, as though he’d had objects going into his skin and they’d been ripped out and left to heal on his own.

He stepped forward, and held out his hand. Carolyn starred at it a moment before shaking it. It was dead white like his face, and his long nails were blue.

“Carolyn Fry,” she said, relinquishing her name.

“Dr. Hugo Trois de Cinq,” he returned, shaking her hand warmly.

Carolyn liked his voice. Where Ridick’s was deep and rich like old scotch, Dr. Hugo’s was soft, low, and smooth like honey. She got the feeling Hugo was the sort of person who would not speak above a whisper, but still had the commanding aura that people would always listen to him.

“These are the carriers you specified. Once the chips are scanned onto the brains, the carriers will become their designated chips. The carriers have also been injected with a small amount of Changeling blood, so that when they regain consciousness, they will be able to decide what sex they wish to be and their previous physical characteristics. The Changeling blood will only remain active for a short time for them to do this, then it will be diluted within the blood stream. Now, if you will hand me the case, I will begin,” he finished, holding out his pale hand for the case.

Carolyn gave it one final squeeze, then handed it to him. Attila then herded everyone out, saying that it would be best for the people receiving carriers if Dr. Hugo had peace and quiet.

For the next hour, the small group milled about in the hallway, frazzled, anxious, and generally getting in the way of anyone who attempted down that particular corridor.

Finally, a voice echoed from behind the closed door that Carolyn had not heard in years, and that made Riddick stiffen.

“Who the hell are you? And what the fuck am I wearing?”

Carolyn didn’t know whether she wanted to laugh or cry. Jack sounded just like she did on the planet. That funny, sarcastic brat that never failed to alleviate the tension.

“I do not think such language is appropriate for a young lady.”

That familiar and comforting voice could only be recognized as Imam’s. Carolyn let out a whoop of delight and flung open the door. Imam’s wife and daughter squeezed past her, and threw themselves into the room.

The carriers had obviously begun to take shape, as the Changeling blood reacted to brain’s self image. But though they’d begun to regain their original forms, the transformation was far from complete.

Carolyn stepped through the doorway, and could now see what Jack was complaining so vehemently. Dr. Hugo had dressed both his patients in the standard hospital gown. These lovely flimsy paper gowns were a shocking baby blue color, and displayed a wonderful view of one’s back end.

Carolyn opened her mouth to greet the rambunctious teenager and the quiet holy man, but something made her stop. Attila and Ra had moved forward to meet the new additions to the group, and the sterile hospital room was now a lively environment, but someone was missing.

She looked back in the hallway. Riddick was still lurking there with a stony, sad, almost angry expression on his face.

“Come on Riddick, I know Jack wants to see you,” Carolyn said softly.

He looked at her, then shook his head.

“It’s cause of me that they were brought into this mess, my fault that they hurt. I’m no good, Carolyn. I’d only be trouble if I stayed,” Riddick muttered.

Carolyn ground her teeth. Enough of this shit.

She marched right up to him and slapped him soundly across the face. He looked up at her, astonished. Clearly, whatever he’d been expecting, it hadn’t been that.

“You self obsessed pig! You mean the world to Jack! And from what I understand, she flippin’ died for you! And you’re going to throw that in her face by leaving her? If you hadn’t left in the first place, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED! Now, if you don’t get your tail in there, I will personally hunt your sorry hide down and kung-fu you into your next seven afterlives.”

Carolyn stopped her angry tirade, breathing heavily. Riddick stared at her, open mouthed for about five seconds before resuming his bad boy act.

“Yes ma’am,” he gave her a jaunty salute and joined the happy throng of people

Carolyn smiled as she watched Riddick happily pointing out Jack’s physical flaws, and gave advice as to what she should to do retain her previous appearance. She retorted rather rudely, and soon they wre bickering cheerfully. Imam and his wife and daughter were a joyful mass of hugs, kisses, and tears.

The chibbit was bounding from one group to the other, seemingly not being able to make up its mind on who to snuggle first. Finally, it sprang into Jack’s arms and rubbed luxuriously against her. It purred loudly like a teenage boy’s first truck that had the muffler taken off.

“Where’d you get the rat?” Jack asked wryly, enthusiastically scratching behind the chibbit’s large ears.

Carolyn felt her breath catch in her throat, and a haze of panic settled over her. The chibbit was hers, and Riddick was already opening his mouth to answer. Carolyn slipped out the door and sprinted out of the hospital ward. They hadn’t noticed her standing in the doorway, and they would not notice her leave.

She couldn’t face them, not now. Not with the knowledge that she’d been willing to murder them all just for a slim chance at her own miserable life. On the planet they had all needed each other. Now, in the safety of the bowls of Furya, things would be questioned. Carolyn swiped away tears she told herself weren’t there, and headed to the ship to wait for Attila and Ra.

She’d bought their love with her death, and she’d be damned if she lost it now. Let them go on thinking she was dead.

The ride up the glass elevator was silent, wallowing in her own guilt. The busy, pleasant noise from the multitudes around her seemed only an echoing buzz in her ears. Her heart was in her throat and her body felt cold. In a trance, she keyed in the code for the gangway to the Legend.

But, to her surprise, she found Attila waiting for her in the cockpit, the chibbit in his lap. He must have taken a short cut to get there ahead of her. She stood in front of him, slightly ashamed as though she were a child being accused of hurting a friend in pre-school.

“Why do you not wish to be with your friends?” he asked quietly.

Carolyn opened her mouth, and then closed it. She sat down against a steel wall of the ship and put her head in her hands. The chibbit came over and curled up in her lap, chattering softly at her.

“You don’t understand Til, I was going to kill them so save my own worthless life! How can I face them after that?” Carolyn yelled.

“Now, you are a grown woman and fully capable of making your own decisions. I only wish to make light on the fact that you were willing to die for them on numerous counts. Is that not enough to let yourself rest and forgive?”

Carolyn shook her head and gripped her hair miserably. “I can’t Til, I just can’t.”

He sighed, and rose to his feet. “If that is your desire. Then may you go, and find happiness in the wonderful wide universe that we live in.”

Carolyn felt something heavy drop into her lap and she looked down. There lay the starter plug for the legend in her lap. It was the master key, and held all the codes to the ship.

“Attila, you can’t give this to me,” she whispered.

He smiled. “You’ve had it hard, my lady. Do you not deserve rest? Go. Take the ship. Give it back, and Ra and I shall be offended. We do not need it for the war brewing against the Necromongers.”

Carolyn swallowed and then flung her arms around his neck, murmuring her thanks over and over again. Attila patted her back for a moment, then gently disentangled himself. He stepped back, bowed low with a graceful flourish, then turned and strode down the gangway, and back into the chaos that was Furya.

She watched him until he was out of sight, then brushed away the tears running down her cheeks with the back of her hand. Carolyn turned and walked into the Legend. She trailed her fingers along the ship’s walls, and as she sank into the pilot’s seat she lovingly caressed the flight consul.

Carolyn grabbed the chibbit and kissed it lightly on the nose. “Well my friend, how would you like to be my handy dandy copilot?”

Her only response was rapid chattering..

“I thought so,” Carolyn said.

She set the chibbit in the copilot’s seat and strapped it in. Then, turning to the view screen she got permission to take off from the Furyan flight control. Carolyn activated the ship’s engine, and then pressed the button to raise the gangway.

“Well, here it goes,” she muttered.

The ship hummed to life, lifted off, and flew off into the space surrounding the planet Furya.

“You gotta stop locking us in here like this babe. I might think you actually want me,” a familiar deep gravely voice purred, his breath tickling her neck.

---

Carolyn gasped, too frozen to turn around. Fear coursed through her veins, along with something else that was too delicious for her to describe.

She did not turn around until the ship was safely free of Furya’s gravity and on autopilot. Then she turned around, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. They all hated her, she knew it.

Riddick stood just behind her, his arms crossed and an amused expression on his face. Jack stood next to him, one slim hand on his huge arm. Imam and his wife and daughter stood behind them. They all watched her, quietly.

“You didn’t think you were gonna leave with out saying goodbye, did you Carolyn?” Riddick asked.

“I…” Carolyn hesitated. She didn’t know what to say or do.

Finally, Imam was the one who broke the ice. He stooped and wrapped her in a warm hug. Carolyn broke down into harsh wracking sobs at this gesture of kindness. She did not deserve this.

“Oh, my dear, I think out of all of us you must have had it the hardest. Did you honestly think we would blame you for one mistake, that you more than repented for by your willingness to trade your life for it? Oh Carolyn, you might have trusted us!” Imam reproached her softly.

Jack stepped forward and knelt at Carolyn’s feet. “For one of the bravest, smartest people I know, you’re actually kinda stupid sometimes.”

Carolyn swallowed hard, trying to regain control of her tears. The last thing that she needed was to be known as some poor delicate damsel with the waterworks.

“Thank you. I sorry, I’m so sorry,” Carolyn whispered.

Jack stood up and bent her head so her mouth was right next to Carolyn’s ear. “I would talk to Riddick if I were you, he was adamant about going after you. And I don’t think it’s because he misses the pretty ship.”

Carolyn flushed red, and mumbled something unintelligible. Imam, discerning the gist of the conversation from the blush staining the docking pilot’s pale cheeks, gently laid a hand on her shoulder.

“In my old years, I have learned some useful things. Have a rest, and I will pilot the ship for a while. I think I can handle it while it’s on autopilot.

Jack caught Imam’s eye and grinned evilly. “Get the rat outta my chair and I’ll help. I always wanted to learn to pilot. But SOMEONE wouldn’t teach me.”

Jack gave Riddick the evil twitchy eye before shoving the chibbit out of the copilots chair and sitting down. She scanned the controls enthusiastically, before grabbing hold of them and sending the Legend rocketing out into space.

Carolyn swallowed. It was one thing to be in the pilot’s chair and be cheerfully turning barrel rolls in a computer assisted skiff. It was entirely another thing to be sitting on the floor of a makeshift bucket being flown by a psychotic psychedelic teenager.

Carolyn wandered to the back of the ship and sat down against a section of wall that didn’t have stuff attached to it or a steel hull rib in the way. Stretching out her legs with a sigh, she leaned her head against the wall and watched her patchwork family with barely concealed pride.

Riddick was leaning over Jack’s chair and pointing out controls. Imam wasn’t really paying attention to the view screen anymore. He had his young daughter on his lap and they were engaged in a loud game of ‘Monkey Goes Round the Mulberry Bush’. Imam’s wife had her hand on her husband’s shoulder and she her face was glowing with pride and happiness.

Carolyn drew her legs up against her chest and rested her chin on her knees. Her family loved her, and they were all together again. All was safe and warm. Suddenly tired, she felt the exhaustion of the last few days weigh down on her. Carolyn curled up with her arms wrapped around her legs and drifted off to sleep.

She swam up from the dark depths of slumber sometime later. For a moment she couldn’t quite figure out why she was so warm and content. Blinking blearily she glanced around, and then she looked down and smiled.

Jack was curled up next to her with her head on Carolyn’s shoulder, and her mouth was open in a silent snore. They were both covered in a thick warm blanket.

Carolyn yawned and stretched her sore muscles. She glanced down at Jack’s sleeping face and smiled slightly. Carolyn reached out without thinking to brush away a stray lock of hair that had fallen over the young girl’s face. Then, realizing what she was doing, she reluctantly took her hand away. She doubted that Jack would want such mushy, motherly attentions.

Carolyn looked about the cabin. Imam and his family were leaning up against the opposite wall, fast asleep. Ziza was curled up in between her two parents, smiling happily in her sleep. Riddick was in the pilot’s seat, flying the Legend.

“You know,” Riddick said softly, pulling her from her reverie, “when I told Jack that I’d found you, she couldn’t stop goin’ on about how we were all finally goin’ to be a family.”

Carolyn looked down at Jack with a surprised expression.

“She said that?”

“Yeah, she did.”

When Carolyn looked up again, she jumped slightly as Riddick was kneeling down right in front of her. His goggles were resting on his forehead, giving her an excellent view of those strange silver eyes. Carolyn swallowed hard.

“I know I’ve fucked things up royally a lot in my life, but for some reason none of you people seem to care about that. I messed up things with Jack once, but I’m not going to do it again. I want to take care of her for the rest of my life,” Riddick whispered.

His face was expressionless, but his eyes bored holes into her with their earnestness. Carolyn face broke into a smile.

“I don’t think I could trust her with anyone else,” she whispered back.

“Carolyn,” Riddick said softly, “I know… it’s not much to offer, but, I would like you to share that life…if you want.”

Carolyn raked his face with her eyes. He meant it, he really meant it. She felt her heart explode in her stomach, into a thousand butterflies. A slow smile spread across her face. Carolyn gently eased Jack’s head into her lap where she wouldn’t be jostled, then flung her arms around Riddick’s neck and kissed him hard on the mouth. Riddick, to his credit, wasn’t stupefied for long. His hands settled on her his and he began to kiss her back.

Though Carolyn would have liked to go on snogging his gorgeous mouth for the rest of her life, her lungs were demanding air. She broke away from him, and he rested his forehead against hers.

“I’m glad you’re gonna stay with me Carolyn,” He murmured.

She smiled, and opened her mouth to reply when Jack cut her off.

“Oh Riddick! Darling! I love you terribly oh so much! Take me! Right here, right now! I can’t wait any longer” Jack said in a high breathy falsetto, mocking Carolyn.

Carolyn frowned, then good naturedly ruffled Jack’s hair. “Fiend.” she muttered.

Riddick chucked, and gave Carolyn a quick kiss before moving back to the pilot’s chair. Jack followed him, talking all the way.

“I get to name the ship!” she said firmly.

“What’re you talking about? It’s already got a name,” Riddick said bemusedly.

“Yeah, well, it sucks,” Jack retorted.

“Well then, what would you name it?”

Jack feigned thinking hard. “Psycho-Noodle!”

Riddick grimaced. “Kid, that ain’t a name.”

Jack crossed her arms over her chest. “It is now.”

Carolyn watched the two dearest people to her continue to bicker and argue playfully with each other. She sighed and leaned her head back against the wall. She felt as though a great weight had been taken from her shoulders.

The chibbit came to curl up in her lap, and Carolyn stroked it thoughtfully. She didn’t know where she’d end up, but at least she wasn’t alone anymore. And that was good enough for her.

She closed her eyes, and drifted off to sleep.

 

THE END

 

 
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