Author: Raven (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Website: in the works
Pairing / Main characters: Riddick/Johns
Series/Sequel: I hope not, but there could be a sequel if my muses get their wicked way...
Summary: Set before PB; my explanation of exactly how Riddick gave Johns his scar.
Disclaimer: Not mine, don’t sue. All you’ll get is a collection of my trashy fanfic and a used copy of The Sims anyway.
Archive/Distribution: I have a simple philosophy - want, take, have. Just let me know where it is.
Date: June 2002
Warning: Fairly graphic m/m, first-time, violence, rape, blood, and some attempt at injecting a plot. Oh, and it’s possibly an AU, since there’s mention of another race of sentient beings, who aren’t human.
Notes: The whole Centauri thing’s my idea, and while the planet plays a part in the plot, there aren’t any truly significant Centauri characters, thank God. And apologies for my truly, truly awful attempt at writing a Southern accent. I’m English. You’ll have to excuse my peculiarity. hehehe.
The cold steel of the shiv against the back of his neck stopped Johns in his tracks.
It was raining on Centauri 2. It was *always* raining on Centauri 2, just as it was always dark. The system’s two suns had burned out over three centuries ago, leaving their three satellite planets in perpetual night. And on Centauri 2, the night was cold.
In the never-ending dark, the rain was the one thing keeping the whole planet from freezing over. On Centauri the rain always came in the same unwavering icy stream, regulated by thousands of atmospheric weather stations; it poured ceaselessly from the empty black sky, ran down the monstrous black buildings with their bright, lurid lights, hit the grooved rubber-coated streets and drained away. It never stopped.
And beneath the streets were vast networks of underground reservoirs and canals, all heated to prevent freezing, where the rainwater waited to be re- injected into the atmosphere. It was treated in huge vats by faceless scientists in protective suits who would never set foot outside. Refuse was extracted. Chemicals were added - chemicals known to cause serious illness after prolonged exposure; this was public knowledge, but deemed necessary to the survival of the Centauri planet itself. The system had been refined over many years; some particularly long-lived Centaurans still remembered the day that their suns burned out, remembered the proposal of the rain system, remembered loved ones dying from the wet sickness. But nothing would change on Centauri 2. Ever.
Johns was already soaked to the bone, but he could still feel the water trickling down the back of his neck, pooling on the flat edge of the metal shiv. He shivered and felt the sharp sting as the metal pierced his skin. His blood ran hot on his neck, mixed with the rainwater, drained away. The impurity would be washed from the water. If he died that very instant, if his blood were spilled and drained away, the treatment plants would make it almost as though he’d never set foot on their world. And Riddick would do the rest.
He shivered again. The shiv bit down deeper.
“You keep movin’ like that and I won’t haveta kill ya,” hissed a low voice beside his ear. Johns frowned. It wasn’t Riddick. “Now, I’m gonna turn out yer pockets and you’ll gimme everythin’ you got, y’hear? Don’t move an’ I won’t haveta stick ya.”
The arm that had barred his spine shifted, wandered over his left hip, searching for his pocket. That was all the invitation Johns needed.
He dove right, scraping his forehead painfully along the wall, the shiv slicing thinly at his neck; dropping to his knees in the rubber-coated alley he went for his gun, realising too late that his attacker had grabbed it.
“Fuck,” he muttered. His eyes closed as the butt of the gun came down.
He expected a blinding lightning bolt of pain to flash through his skull. He knew the feeling well. Work for the Marine Military Police long enough, you get intimately acquainted with the feel of steel cracking your skull. He’d been treated for more fractures and subdural haematomas than he could count without referring to his med records. First came the pain, then the disorientation, then the swimming blackness before you passed out. He almost liked the feeling - there was something about the burn of broken skin over a skull fracture that let him know he was still alive.
But none of it came.
He opened one eye experimentally, half expecting to see the gun-butt come smashing down into it. But he didn’t. He opened both eyes, frowning. The guy was gone. And his gun was lying on the ground in front of him.
He reached out for it; his fingertips grazed the slick metal and caught hold of the trigger guard so he could tug it toward him. He didn’t want to move too quickly or too far, or to turn around without that gun in his hand.
A boot came down on the gun. Johns winced and, slowly, looked up.
Eyes gleamed in the darkness. Riddick.
He kicked the gun away, into a stack of rotting wooden crates and assorted trash, all in varying stages of decomposition. And he smiled, bringing a bloody shiv to his mouth. Johns watched as Riddick’s tongue caressed the sharp metal, licking it clean. Involuntarily, he shivered again. That wasn’t Riddick’s shiv - Riddick’s was in his other hand. That was the mugger’s. That was Johns’ blood.
“You owe me for this, Johns,” he said.
Johns frowned. “Owe you for what, exactly?”
“This.” Riddick tossed him the mugger’s clean metal shiv. It clanged dully on the hardened rubber just before his knees. Johns set his fingers on it, gathered it into his palm, then looked up again. “And this.”
The steady downpour was already washing it clean, but Johns could see the blood dripping from Riddick’s shiv. Then he moved, one muscular arm pointing off to Johns’ left with the shiny metal. Against his better judgement - judgement telling him not to turn his bback to Riddick - Johns turned.
The guy was dead, his throat slashed from ear to ear, a great yawning wound below his jaw. For a second Johns couldn’t believe he hadn’t heard it happen. Then he remembered the incessant beat of the rain. It was screwing with his senses. The rain in his eyes and on his skin and pouring all around him almost took his mind off the fact that Riddick had probably saved his life.
He turned back; the sudden pain in his hand as Riddick’s boot stepped down made him groan, and he sucked in a quick breath, head tilting back, teeth baring as he felt the cool edge of the shiv against his throat.
“I want you to remember this moment,” Riddick said, his mouth just beside Johns’ ear, so close he could feel the heat of his body and his breath. Johns closed his eyes, breathing Riddick in on the rain-soaked air.
Then the pain came, a lightning strike through his head as Riddick brought the gun down on the back of his neck. The last thing he saw as his vision swam to blackness was the gleam of Riddick’s eyes before he turned and walked away.
The bright lights of Centauri’s capital city burnt Johns’ eyes, and he wasn’t even outside. He was lying on a bed. His head felt heavy, his eyes hot. The pink and blue neon light of one of the numerous strip clubs shone in between the slats of the window blinds. He wanted to move, to shut the blinds and lie down and drift to sleep in the dark, but when he sat up his head started to spin. He lay back down.
Centauri 2 was the only populated planet in the Centauri system. Immediately before and after the death of their suns, the Centauri people had elected to pool their resources, and the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri and Centauri 3 had joined their neighbours on the system’s largest planet, Centauri 2. There they instituted the rain program, complete with orbital weather regulators and underground water treatment plants.
The Centauri people had been great scholars and artists for centuries. Centauri 3 had been home to the largest museum in the known galaxy. Alpha Centauri had housed the greatest scientific institute ever created. Yet with all their scientific genius they could not avert their greatest disaster, and the Centauri civilisation degenerated along with its suns.
Caught between two bright-burning stars, the Centaurans had lived in perpetual light. In perpetual darkness their artistic soul died. One hundred years later, their one over-populated planet became an outlaws’ haven, home of all from the lowest of thieves and petty thugs to the gunrunners and assassins, pirates to the upper echelons of galactic organised crime. Centauri 2 became a place where the wanted disappeared.
And its capital was the vast, sprawling chaos of Centaurus. It spread out to cover each square metre of the largest of Centauri 2’s three continents, its tallest buildings stretching some three miles from the planet surface, up into the lower atmosphere. Perhaps once it had been a wonder to behold, all gleaming silvered spires glittering in the bright artificial light of the atmospheric regulators, shimmering in the falling rain. But the lights had been allowed to dim and the city had fallen to darkness. The glory of Centaurus was no more.
Its streets were lined with bars and strip clubs, gambling establishments where the smell of gunfire hung heavy in the smoky air. Hookers in short skirts and impossibly high heels catcalled to the passers-by from under their blue-glowing electronic rain shields. Boarding houses sold themselves on the number of their patrons who hadn’t been shot or hauled off-world by mercs. It was a bleak and lawless world, ruled loosely by the highly corrupt Centauran government. There was little wonder that the lawless had claimed it as their own.
And it was to Centauri 2 that Johns had chased Riddick.
Lying on his bed in the boarding house, pink lights glowing through his eyelids, Johns remembered his last visit to Centaurus. He’d been with the Marine Military Police then, chasing three soldiers, AWOL from the Wailing Wars. Three days on the planet and he’d tracked them through the wet streets, into a bar that smelled of rot and cheap whiskey. The floor was slick with rainwater and every hour a young topless barmaid set to it with a mop; he remembered being fascinated by the sway of her breasts, the youthful sexuality of it, how she couldn’t have been more than fifteen but looked like she’d been doing it all her life. It had disturbed him to see her like that. It disturbed him even more when one of the men he was tracking tried to grope her on her way back to the bar. But she didn’t seem to mind. He’d never quite shaken that feeling of unease.
The heat had been turned up so high that Johns couldn’t tell if his shirt was wet with rain or sweat. After an hour and a half inside, all he wanted to do was stand outside in the rain. They said there was an additive in the rain there that got you hooked if you spent too much time in it. He’d thought the story was bullshit the first time he heard it, but looking back, he wasn’t so sure. He’d left the bar to stand outside, to let the cold Centauri rain calm him.
Fifteen minutes later the soldiers left the bar. He shot one of them and took the other into custody. Johns sighed. The MMP had a lot to answer for. Three months later he’d received a clean discharge, and was addicted to morphine.
The red box of red shell casings sat on the dresser by the bed. He reached out for it, spilled half of the shells on the floor, cursed, and scooped one up.
He loved the sound the needle made as he slid the vial into place and snapped it shut. He loved the sound the needle made as it sprang into position. He even loved the sound of the needle as it slid into his tear duct. He loved the feel of it in his hand, the smooth metal resting lightly on the soft skin between his thumb and forefinger. He’d injected there a couple of times, just to see how it felt. But it left marks. He preferred to use his tear ducts. If he was careful, no one would ever know.
Soon his head felt lighter. Soon his hand didn’t ache so much. Soon it didn’t matter that his pillow caught on the cut at the back of his neck, that he was bleeding into the dirty bed linen. Soon the lights dimmed and he drifted back to sleep.
Richard Riddick had no friends; he wasn’t even sure he had the social skills necessary to make a friend, let alone actually wanting one. He had acquaintances, sure - a man of his gifts was always sure to meet new and interesting people. But he had no friends, and that was exactly the way he liked it.
Still, there was one thing he’d admit - having a friend on Centauri could’ve helped. That way he wouldn’t have been staying in a dirty boarding house just east of the centre of Centaurus.
The mattress squeaked as he stretched out on the low bed, his arms up above him, his head resting on his hands. The place was a hole. A filthy, bug-infested hole, right next door to a brightly lit and raucous bordello. He could hear all the noises of sex loud through the walls. The whole place stank of it. It lingered in the air and he could taste it in every breath he took. It brought a smile of amusement to his lips just thinking of all those sweat-slicked limbs and carnal pleasures. It crawled under his skin and made him want to kill.
He shifted, lay his head on the pillow and his hands by his sides. A cockroach - or what passed for a cockroach on Centauri - crawled over his hand. Riddick turned his head to look at it, all hair-thin legs and deep red-brown shell, antennae twitching over the fine hairs on his arm before it wandered off onto the bed. For a second he thought about scooping it into his hand, maybe squashing it between his fingers, but the thought only lasted a second. He watched it make its way down the mattress then down the foot of the bed to the floor, where it disappeared through a crack in the bare wooden boards. He just let it go.
Riddick lay back and closed his eyes. As he’d landed on Centauri he’d thought briefly about looking up a few of those old acquaintances, maybe finding a place to stay. Keller, a gunrunner he remembered from the Ribald Correctional Facility, owned a bar in South-West Central, rented rooms; he’d always told Riddick that if he ever needed a place to stay, he should look him up. And Jacks Almeida, a cellmate from Hubble Bay, had a restaurant way up in North Centaurus. It was a relatively upmarket neighbourhood - relative, of course, to the slums of Central Centaurus, but still halfway decent. Johns wouldn’t think to look for him there.
It might have been good to take a few days out from the chase, catch up with a familiar face or two. It might have been good, to anyone but Riddick. He hated the idea and couldn’t believe he’d wasted a full minute to entertain it. He’d as soon gut Keller and Almeida as talk to them, let alone ask for help.
He didn’t want to see any familiar faces. That wasn’t what Centaurus was all about - it was a place that crims came to disappear, not to look up old friends. And Riddick had no friends. Which, he reminded himself again, was just the way he liked it.
And he didn’t want to hide in some gunrunner’s basement for the rest of his life. In fact, he didn’t want to hide at all. He never had. The filthy hole was fine by him. In fact, it kinda suited him.
He left the bed. He picked his shiv from the dresser and walked into the small en suite bathroom. He didn’t bother with the lights; he’d half blinded himself once already, tugging on the light cord and looking up into the bright white strip light, and he didn’t need a repeat performance. He leant forward over the grimy, formerly white sink, soaped the crown of his skull and started to shave.
He loved the metallic scrape of the shiv against the stubble. Razors were no good for shaving. He’d take a shiv any day, the soft rasp of the blade over hair, the subtle vibrations of it in his palm, the control. It was perfect.
There was a slight twinge in his wrist but he ignored it. He’d tweaked something on that filthy thief back in the alley, when his shiv caught for an instant on the guy’s trachea, but it’d be fine in the morning. If there ever was a morning on Centauri 2. He knew there wasn’t. Give it ten hours, then. The night’s festivities had been worth a little twinge. He could still taste Johns’ blood in his mouth.
He’d seen the question in the merc’s eyes as he’d tossed him the thief’s shiv. Why the hell had he saved his life? Riddick smiled. It had to be driving Johns insane, and he liked that. He was in his head. Soon, when Johns came down off of his inevitable morphine hit, he’d started asking himself why the guy he’d been tracking, why a guy he wanted to ship back to Slam City, had saved his life. Then he’d start asking what Riddick had even been doing there, back in that alley. He’d enjoy explaining that to him.
But not yet.
Riddick looked up into the mirror, into his own gleaming eyes, metallic eyes without irises that had once been a dark, deep brown. He didn’t need colour in the dark.
And he smiled.
No, not yet.
Polite questions asked of barkeeps and boarding house proprietors might have worked wonders elsewhere in the galaxy, but it was a skill lost on the good citizens of Centauri. In three days it had got Johns precisely nowhere, and as he walked into the forty-third bar on his list, it was beginning to piss him off.
He was well aware that asking questions could get him into trouble. It had done on more than one occasion, but it was still the fastest way to get information and hell, Riddick obviously already knew he was looking for him. Riddick could’ve taken him out if he’d wanted. Riddick could have let him die and done nothing at all. And what had Riddick been doing in that alley anyway? Had he been following him? Was he following him now? Fuck. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out what the fuck was going on inside that psycho’s head.
Still, all he needed to do was hit the right guy, flash a smile and little of that vaunted Southern charm, and his paycheck could be right around the corner. Of course, it was never quite that simple. And he had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to take more than a couple of well-placed questions to take Richard B. Riddick alive. Fuck it then, he’d take him dead. Fuck his perfect record. He was past caring.
The floor was covered in new, thick rubber, and the soles of Johns’ boots started to stick to it in a way he wasn’t sure he liked. He almost tripped as he took a seat at the bar. The place was old, larger than it looked from the outside, and looked even larger thanks to the distinct lack of custom.
Johns took a look around. Three drunken, grey-haired Centaurans were sitting in the back corner, eyes glued to a vid-screen as they squabbled over some race with creatures Johns had never seen before. A short balding guy, glasses, mid-forties, with the look of an accountant, was sitting at the centre table, talking loudly with his arms around two ugly hookers. And apart from the barkeep and himself, that was everyone in the whole joint.
“Somethin’ I can get you?” asked the barkeep, a glimmer of hope in his eye. He was human, as far as Johns could tell. Still, some Centaurans had the inhuman forehead ridge that distinguished their features from that of your regular Earthling removed, and with modern surgical techniques, that kind of cosmetic deal wouldn’t necessarily leave a scar. The guy’s greying brown hair was lank and tied up roughly behind his head, a dirty blue apron covering his beer gut. Typical barkeep. It could’ve been any bar anywhere in the galaxy, except for the giveaway rubber floor.
Johns nodded. “Beer, thanks,” he said. The barkeep set it down in front of him on the worn bar top. Johns popped the cap and took a sip of the beer he had no intention of finishing.
“Can I get you somethin’ else? Somethin’ to eat maybe. Chef’s special’s...”
“You the chef?”
The barkeep nodded. “Yeah. So what if I am?”
Johns smiled, briefly. “I’m looking for someone.” He took another sip, set the bottle down on the bar with a loud glassy thud. The barkeep cocked an eyebrow. “Name of Richard B. Riddick. Big guy, shaved head, wears these cute black goggles to keep the light off of his shiny-ass eyeballs. You ain’t seen him, have ya?”
The barkeep shrugged. “And what if I have? How you gonna... *compensate* me for my time?” He gave Johns a sly smile, leaning down on the bar.
The gun pressed to his forehead took the barkeep by surprise. Obviously this guy was new - most Centauran barkeeps wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Until, of course, Johns did what he did next; he cocked the gun and slipped his finger onto the trigger.
“I tell you what,” he said, smiling a sly smile of his own. “You tell me what you know and I’ll not cover your stock with the insides of your head.” The barkeep said nothing. Johns brought up his other hand and slammed the bottom of the glass beer bottle into the barkeep’s forehead. He yelped, and a steady trickle of blood sprang from the wound. “You gonna tell me or am I gonna paint the wall with your brain?”
Johns moved the gun just long enough to fire a shell into the ceiling, making all six patrons and the barkeep start viciously. He pressed the barrel of the gun back to the barkeep’s forehead.
“Try me,” he said, blue eyes smiling.
The barkeep swallowed, hard, as the accountant and his lady-friends scuttled out of the front door. The Centaurans returned to their race, completely unfazed. Some planet, Johns couldn’t help but think. “R...R...Riddick, you say?”
“Riddick, Richard B.”
“Big guy, ‘bout so tall?” The barkeep gestured in the air, maybe two inches above Riddick’s height. Johns nodded. “Yeah, I seen ‘im. Maybe three days ago.”
“He say anythin’? Maybe you know where he’s stayin’?”
“My, my sister-in-law, Stacey - that’s my sister-in-law - she has this boardin’ house down on sevventy-third. You might try there.”
“And what makes you think I’ll find him there?”
The barkeep shrugged. “Maybe ‘cause I recommended it to him,” he said.
Johns stood and took the gun from the barkeep’s head. “Sorry ‘bout the ceilin’,” he said.
“Not me you need to apologise to, it’s Kay and those whore who live up there.” The barkeep smirked. “Let’s hope you didn’t hit none of ‘em. Cryin’ shame that’d be.”
Johns nodded, holstering the gun before he turned and stalked toward the door.
“Hey, you gonna pay for that beer?” the barkeep yelled after him.
Johns smiled, tossing twenty credits over his shoulder. He heard the clink of the money on the bar top as the doors opened and he stepped out into the rain.
Seventy-third. Fourteen streets down. Half an hour and he could be face-to-face with Riddick. He wasn’t sure if he liked that idea or not.
The city of Centaurus has two main streets, one running north-south and the other east-west. They run almost as far as the edge of the city in both directions, and in a city that spans one thousand twelve miles east-west and nine hundred seventy-eight miles north-south, those are long roads. Traffic signals little the sky, floating electronics at every junction, with eighteen levels of traffic. Johns was on the lowest level, the pedestrian sidewalk, twenty feet below the last tier of automotive traffic.
The city was split into administrative sectors to allow ease of navigation, numbered from one to eight thousand twelve, each encompassing its own city- sized area. Johns was walking in sector seventeen, just east of the city centre, in the sector imaginatively named East Central. The sector was bisected horizontally by a section of Main Street, with perhaps eight hundred streets running off of it. He was walking on west on Main, almost at the corner of eighty-sixth. Thirteen streets to go.
Above him the traffic roared, and around him the rain beat against the pavement. There was no silence on Centauri, at least not for the average citizen. Johns had heard stories on his last visit about the rich leaders of the gambling syndicates who had special rooms in their homes outfitted with high-grade soundproofing. He’d been in a soundproof room once. Top-grade military soundproofing, painted bright, blinding white, so white it had hurt his eyes, until they’d turned off the lights and closed the doors. Then it was black as night and all he could hear was the pounding of his own heart. It wasn’t an experience he’d exactly enjoyed, being alone in the dark with the eerie sound of the blood pumping through his veins. It made him shudder to remember it. But right then he could almost have believed it was worth it. The traffic was just too fucking loud. He wished the rain would stop.
But the rain never stopped.
He checked his watch and saw 2pm before he realised it was useless. Centauri had a twenty-seven hour day. What did that make it? His head hurt and his heart was pounding; he couldn’t think straight to work it out and he guessed it didn’t matter anyway. Nine hours since his last injection. No wonder he felt so spectacularly shitty. Give it another fifteen minutes and he’d be shaking and throwing up. He wished he had the morphine with him. Maybe he needed to stop by his room before he went to the boarding house. Maybe he needed some rest. A couple of hours and he’d be good to go. He could get more shells for the shotgun and find his badge - who knew, maybe it’d impress Stacey into giving up Riddick.
Christ, who was he kidding? He just needed to shoot up.
He turned around. A block and a half to his room. He hoped he’d make it before he blacked out.
Riddick had decided that once Johns was off his back, he was staying on Centauri.
Whichever way he looked at it, it really was his kind of planet. Twenty-seven hour a day pitch blackness, no sun and no lawmen. Definitely no Slam. Cheap boarding houses every second street with tight-lipped proprietors, a bar on every corner, a whorehouse down every alley. More people than he could kill in a lifetime. And best of all, no one to keep him from doing exactly what he wanted. No one except Johns, and soon even he would cease to be a problem.
He didn’t mind the rain. The heavy three-quarter length leather coat he was wearing kept most of it off him, even if it was a size or two too small to be ideal. He liked the feel of the water trickling over his shaven head, down over his neck and past the collar of the coat. He liked the feel of it pooling in the hollow at the base of his throat as he tilted his head back. It pooled in the eyes of his goggles and made it seem almost like he was underwater.
As he smiled, a few drops slipped between his parted lips. He even liked the taste of it. The Centauri rain tasted metallic. Riddick liked the taste of metal.
He let the water drain from his goggles and walked into the bar. The light was low enough inside that he could have taken them off and seen comfortably, but he didn’t bother. He just wiped out the eyes with his thumb and strode over to the bar, the soles of his boots sticking awkwardly to the rubber floor.
“Ah, Mr. Riddick,” said the barkeep. “What can I get you?”
“Whiskey,” he replied as he took a seat, removing the coat and shaking off the excess water. He watched it drain away on the floor. There must have been something mixed into the rubber that absorbed it, he realised. Fucking strange planet, Centauri. Be he could get used to it.
“Man was in here earlier, askin’ after you,” the barkeep said as he set the dirty glass down on the bar, splashing in three fingers of a dark amber whiskey.
Riddick quirked an eyebrow and took the glass, taking a sip. Centauran whiskey tasted like metal too. Metallic and cold and fifty percent proof. It tasted blue and silver, icy like the rain.
“He tell you his name?”
“Nope. Jus’ asked where he could find you. Asked for you by name an’ all, like you said he would. Friend of yours?”
“Something like that. You tell him where to find me?”
“Sure. Y’know, he had the look of a marshal.”
Riddick smiled, easing up his goggles as he took another sip of the strange drink. “Nothin’ for you to worry about, old man,” he said. “We go way back. Saved his life once.” He downed the rest of the glass, rubbing at the rim with the pad of his thumb. “You know, you might wanna clean these glasses. They’re filthy.”
The barkeep smiled. “You’re the first to complain,” he said.
Riddick slapped down a few credits on the bar, standing, sliding the goggles back down over his eyes. “Mind if I take this one?” he asked, holding up the empty, dirty glass.
“Be my guest, Mr. Riddick. You’ll be comin’ back?”
“I’ll be seeing you.”
Riddick turned and strode out the way he came, back into the cold rain.
He held up the glass to eye level and watched as it filled. He tipped it out and cleaned it with the hem of his shirt, then filled it again before taking a mouthful. His teeth clicked against the glass as he held the water in his mouth a second. It tasted metallic. The glass would do.
Johns felt a little woozy as he walked down Main Street in the rain. He couldn’t remember the Centauri name for Main Street and though it didn’t matter, it was bugging him. It bugged him even more when he caught himself thinking about it, as he knew he should be focussing. But he couldn’t focus. He was too damn hyped and jammed the heel of his left hand into his rain-slicked eye, rubbing hard. He hoped maybe it’d help get him back on track. It didn’t.
He simultaneously wanted to sleep for three days, shoot up another amp, drink half a bottle of Centauri whiskey and strip naked and dance in the rain. He guessed the morphine hadn’t quite worn off. He was grateful that he managed to keep on walking and did none of the above.
His hair was slicked down against his scalp. He was tired of that feeling. He was tired of his clothes being soaked. He was tired of the incessant beat of the rain against the sidewalk, the way his soles stuck to the rubber, the way he’d only ever be dry for maybe five hours at the most before he’d set foot outside and be soaked to the skin again in five minutes. He was surprised his clothes hadn’t shrunk. And all he really wanted to do was capture Riddick then get the fuck off of that goddamned rock.
Aureanaz Thiriz. That was it. The Centauran for Main Street. He grinned dumbly for a second, caught the odd look that the hooker on the nearest corner gave him and smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand. If he’d been thinking straight he would’ve turned back and waited in a bar ‘til the edge wore off the morphine. But he wasn’t thinking straight. He kept on going.
Seventy-third. He stopped and peered down the street. It had to be at least forty blocks long, at least. He took a deep breath and started down it.
Lurid lights in every colour shone down Seventy-Third Street, advertising bars and clubs, hotels, restaurants, sex shops, the works. Overheard roared the standard eighteen tiers of traffic, no break visible in the seemingly endless stream. Pedestrians wandered, collars turned up, many wearing waterproofs. Johns wished he had waterproofs, but all he had were three of those goddamned blue uniforms and two vests, both shot up pretty badly. He was already soaked again, his boots squelching. Four days on Centauri and he had to grudgingly admit that he was beginning to get used to it.
When he looked up, through the traffic, he could see the tall spires of the city. They rose three miles into the sky in places, so high that the buildings had oxygen pumped through their ventilation systems to keep the inhabitants from passing out. And between the high towers there were no stars. Johns wished he could see stars, but they weren’t even visible from the top of the highest building. The Centauri atmosphere was too dense. It was a truly alien world. Johns couldn’t imagine living on a world so completely sheathed in darkness. It turned his stomach just to think about it. Of course, that could have been the morphine.
There it was. Just off to his left, on the opposite side of the street, was the first boarding house he’d seen. Okay so maybe it wasn’t it, but it was a start, and he had to start somewhere. He shook his head, hard. That felt better. He laid his hand on the butt of his gun and walked up to the door.
His hand slipped on the metal doorknob. Every other place he’d seen had rubber handles. He frowned and unzipped his jacket, rubbing his hand on his relatively dry undershirt before trying again. He pushed open the door.
Inside the place was pretty bleak. The lobby was a short hall, maybe six feet across and twelve feet long. To the right, under the only light in the room, was an old wooden counter. There was a guest book sitting on top of it, and a bell gleaming tarnished gold.
As he stepped closer, Johns could see there was a woman behind the counter, sitting in a low chair, reading a book with the title ‘Sense and Sensibility’. Johns smiled to himself. Maybe that good ol’ Southern charm would be some use to him after all.
“Good... day, ma’am,” he said, leaning on the counter, smiling down at the woman. “Are you Stacey?”
She looked up, quickly pulling the glasses from her face. She looked maybe twenty-five, a little overweight, long brown hair done in two long braids. She dropped her book on the floor, cursed under her breath, stooped to pick it up, and when she laid it on the counter and looked at Johns she was blushing a furious red.
“Uh, yes, yes, I’m Stacey. Is there, uh, is there something I can, err, do for you, Sir?” she asked, wiping her hands down the front of her long black dress.
Johns smiled a little broader, leaning a little closer. “Well, I was kinda hopin’ you could help me, yeah,” he said. “I’m lookin’ for a friend o’ mine, Miss, and I’d sure appreciate any help you could give me. Your brother-in-law at the bar on Eighty-Seventh told me I might find him here. Name o’ Richard B. Riddick, though he mightn’t be usin’ that name... big guy, wearin’ black goggles.” He made circles around his eyes, indicating the goggles; the woman smiled. “Do you think you might’ve seen him, Miss? It sure would be a help to me.”
The woman frowned, the frown conflicting with the smile already on her face. She drummed her fingers on the edge of the counter, looking down. She brushed her hair behind her ear, rubbed her bottom lip with her thumb, wiped her hands on the front of her dress again then looked back up. She wasn’t smiling.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I recognise the name,” she said quietly, not quite meeting Johns’ eyes.
“Then perhaps you’d recognise him? I’m sure I have a picture of him somewhere...” He started to pat himself down, searching for an imaginary picture. “He’s a real big guy. All muscles, y’know? Silvery eyes when he ain’t wearin’ those goggles. Prob’ly dressed all in black. Where’s that picture? Are you sure you haven’t seen him? It’s kinda important. His sister’s real sick and I kinda think he’d wanna be there for her, y’know?”
The woman sighed, spreading her fingers on the counter. Finally, she nodded.
“Yes, I’ve seen him,” she said. “Mr. Riddick. About so high?” She gestured a couple of inches below Riddick’s height. Johns nodded. “Big guy. Wearing a black leather jacket and a pair of funny black goggles. He’s in room twelve. Would you like me to call the room for you?”
Johns smiled and shook his head. “No, no thank you. You’ve been real kind, Miss. I’ll just see myself up. Which floor?”
“Thank you again. Really.”
She shrugged, smiling, blushing again. “No problem,” she said, picking up her book. Johns left the lobby and headed for the stairs. When he glanced back at her, she looked down at the book quickly. He smiled. He still had it. Hyped-up mercenary ex-MMP or not, he was still damn good.
He climbed the stairs quickly, pulling his gun and checking the shells. He was good to go. He stepped off the stairwell on the second floor and checked the room numbers. Fifteen. Fourteen. Thirteen. He was there, standing outside the room. Cautiously, he reached out and knocked with the grazed knuckles of his right hand. Then he held the gun tight.
No answer. Not that that meant he wasn’t there. He knocked again, waited. No answer. Silently he put his ear to the door. And he was sure that he could hear something, some sort of quiet movement, like squeaky bedsprings. He was in there. Riddick was in there. He stepped back.
So he’d alerted him to his presence. What now? Wait for him to come to the door? He’d probably be out the window in no time. So what, then? Break down the door and chance it. Anything to get off that fucking planet with its fucking rain and its fucking never-ending night. Anything.
One swift kick to the door handle and it swung open. Fuck. The lights were off. The blinds were closed. Apart from the shaft of light coming in through the doorway, the room was in complete darkness. He couldn’t hear anything now, except maybe the sound of a couple fucking in the whorehouse next door. It was unnerving.
He took a step forward, patted down the inside wall of the room and couldn’t find a light switch. He started to panic. It was one thing facing Riddick in the light, but in complete darkness? Those were Riddick’s terms, with those shined eyes. And Riddick’s terms were no good. Johns would be dead in seconds.
His fingers brushed something smooth and raised on the wall. He hit the lights and strode into the room.
Riddick wasn’t there. Not in the bedroom at least.
He checked under the bed, in the wardrobe, the tiny balcony outside the window, then the bathroom, with increasing consternation. Riddick wasn’t there, period. Fuck. Riddick wasn’t there. What the fuck was he supposed to do now?
He sat down on the bed. The springs squeaked and it jarred him. Had he heard someone in the room or had he heard next door, or the floor above? He didn’t honestly know. But he was pretty sure he was screwed.
He checked the drawers. Riddick’s stuff was still here, such as it was. Three pairs of pants, two black tank tops, socks, underwear, shaving gel, toothbrush, all in a bag on the chair. He knew Riddick travelled light, but this was ridiculous. Maybe he’d left already and just wanted to make it look like he was still there. Or maybe that was all he owned. After all, he hadn’t exactly had much time to go shopping for new clothes.
Johns turned on the two bedside lamps and the bathroom lights, leaving the bathroom door open. The room was bright enough to make his own eyes hurt, never mind Riddick’s. He’d stay and wait, hope the girl at the desk didn’t give him away, and maybe he’d come back. And if he did, he’d be blind the second he stepped through the door there was so much light. If not, well, Johns guessed he’d just have to start over.
Twelve hours later and Riddick hadn’t shown. Johns guessed that if he hadn’t shown by then he wouldn’t show at all, and slipped out of the building while Stacey was sleeping at the desk.
Five minutes later and he was soaked again. He couldn’t wait ‘til he got off Centauri, and if he never saw the place again it’d be too fucking soon.
He hailed a cab after three blocks and rode back to his own boarding house. He kept rubbing at his forehead or the back of his neck and instantly regretting it - the graze on his forehead stung evilly and the cut on the back of his neck just kept opening up over and over, staining the back of his one good white shirt. He paid the driver and left the cab wishing he were back on Earth and dreaming of the canisters of morphine sitting on the dresser. Ah well, he guessed at least he wasn’t shaking. He wasn’t entirely sure why he wasn’t.
He could almost hear the ting of the metal as he loaded up the needle. He could almost feel it pierce him, slide into him, dulling his pain. Pain? What fucking pain? A little scrape on his forehead and a scratch on his neck? A bruised hand? So fucking what. He hadn’t needed the morphine since that last gunshot sound had healed. But he quickly silenced his rational side with a quick thought of the sleep he’d get under the drug, free from the sound of the rain. Maybe he’d dream of someplace warm, someplace where it didn’t rain, ever. Someplace where it was always light.
But he didn’t get that far. He opened the door, and before he could register the gleam in the dark, the blow had been landed and he was sinking from consciousness.
Johns woke with a start, sat bolt upright and groaned when he felt the pain splitting his head. He’d been hit. Again. This time in the forehead - a couple of inches to the right and he could’ve been dead. But he wasn’t. He was alive and sitting on his bed, alone, with no idea how he’d got there.
Riddick. Fuck. He’d walked right into a trap and Riddick had knocked him unconscious. So why wasn’t he dead?
He swung his feet down off the bed and noticed they were bare. His chest was bare, too. And the lights were on. And his vision was swimming. Reflexively he bent forward, dry heaving grotesquely over the floor. He reached out for the container on the dresser, his fingers closed on it, and somehow he managed to get it onto his lap. He pulled it open, loaded the needle with shaking hands, tilted his head back, and shot.
He took a deep breath. He was going to be okay. He was going to be okay.
Except where the fuck was Riddick?
He stood. And almost immediately hit the floor. His feet were taken from under him. By what? By a leg, sweeping around, catching his ankles. His head hit the floor with a sick thud. Riddick was under the bed. All the damn time, Riddick was under the bed. Waiting.
Johns scrambled to his feet, onto the bed. He couldn’t run. He wasn’t sure his legs would hold him. He fucking *knew* his legs wouldn’t hold him. Where was his gun? His eyes scanned the room quickly. Where the fuck was his gun? Lying on the chair next to the bathroom door. Could he make it? Fuck. No. Riddick rolled out from under the foot of the bed and stood, slowly, a smile playing at his lips. He was between Johns and the shotgun.
Johns looked for the shiv in Riddick’s hand. He didn’t see it. It wasn’t there.
“Riddick? What the fuck’s going on here?” Johns muttered. He closed his eyes, screwed them shut, weaving a little on the bed before he caught his balance.
“You disappoint me. C’mon now, don’t pass out on me now. After I’ve gone to so much trouble...”
Johns frowned. He was seeing three Riddicks. As if one wasn’t bad enough.
He lunged. He lunged right off the end of the bed, shoulder burying into Riddick’s right pectoral, doubling him over as Johns hit the floor. Riddick’s foot came up and snapped Johns’ head jarringly to the left, and he bit down involuntarily on the inside of his cheek. The foot was bare. Johns could feel the skin against his jaw.
He quickly spat out a mouthful of blood and rolled up onto his knees. Riddick was advancing. Johns caught a hold of his left leg and tugged, hard; Riddick fell, cracking Johns under the jaw with his right foot as he went down, back slapping heavily against the wooden floor. Riddick grunted. In a second Johns was on top of him, his grazed fist connecting soundly with his jaw.
But Riddick fought back. He shoved Johns hard in the chest, knocking him backwards, sprawled across the floor. And he followed through, springing on top of him, driving his fist hard into Johns’ gut, making him cough deeply and spit out another mouthful of blood.
Riddick hauled Johns to his feet and threw him up against the wall, his head bouncing off it with a dull thud. Johns felt Riddick’s hands pressed against his shoulders and waited for another blow. It didn’t come. He opened his eyes.
Riddick’s goggled eyes were just inches in front of him, so close he had trouble focussing. Johns was sure he could see a metallic gleam behind the lenses.
His heart was beating too fast. All his limbs felt heavy with the thud of morphine and adrenaline in his blood. He felt sick. But he felt excited. He felt the trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth and would have reached out to wipe it away, only Riddick got there first. But not with his hand.
Riddick leant forward, and with one long, measured stroke, licked the blood from Johns’ face. Johns shuddered. Riddick smiled.
He leant forward again, pulling himself up to his full height, one hand moving from Johns’ shoulder to his right temple. With his thumb he held Johns’ eyelid open. And he brought his tongue down, into the corner of his eye, licking lightly at the eyeball and the tear duct.
When Riddick’s tongue burst into his mouth, Johns could taste the morphine and his own blood.
He shoved him, hard, sending him back a few paces.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Johns almost yelled, outraged, blood pumping furiously.
Riddick smirked. “I would’ve thought that was pretty obvious,” he said.
Johns hit him. He let Johns hit him. He let Johns slam him up against the opposite wall, just beside the window, even though he could’ve fought him off.
“What the fuck is this about, Riddick?” Johns was screaming. “Why the...” He stopped, eyes going wide as he leant hard against him. He could feel Riddick’s cock hard through his trousers. He raised an eyebrow. “Oh, so *that’s* what this is about.” Riddick smirked again. “So, what? You want me to roll over for you, let you fuck me in the ass? You’ll have to kill me first.”
“I’d planned on it.”
Johns’ blood ran cold. He’d planned on it.
“You kept me alive so you could kill me yourself,” he said simply. Riddick nodded. Johns felt sick. “What if I let you go, stop trackin’ you?”
“What if I don’t want you to?”
“Fuck, Riddick... Fuck.” Johns sucked in a quick breath. Where was the gun? He couldn’t see it. Must’ve been knocked off the chair in the fight. Was there anything? Christ. No, there wasn’t. “What if... what if I let you... what if I let you fuck me?” His cheeks burned just saying it. And Riddick smiled.
“How about I fuck you and afterwards I decide if I’ll let you live.” Johns just stared at him. “Take off your pants, Johns. Step the fuck back and take off your fucking pants.”
Johns took a step back. His hands went to the waist of his pants, fingers fumbling with the button, tugging down the zipper. And slowly, bending from the waist and then from the knees, head swimming and pulse racing, he pulled them down. He stepped out of them, still bent over. And then he saw it.
He grabbed the gun and swung it up with everything he had. Riddick caught it in both hands, twisted, brought it up hard under his jaw and tossed it into the bathroom in one fluid movement. Johns found himself sitting on his naked ass at the foot of the bed. That was it. He was going to die.
Riddick hauled him to his feet and shoved him down onto the bed; Johns tried to struggle but there was nothing he could do with Riddick’s weight pressing down on him and his hands pulled roughly behind him. He felt some kind of tape being wrapped round them, binding them together. He still felt woozy from the morphine and the blows to his head. He just hoped he’d pass out before the inevitable happened.
Riddick’s weight shifted. He heard clothing being shed under the dull roar of the traffic and the falling rain from the open window. Then the lights were off, and Riddick knelt on the bed. Johns’ stomach lurched at the thought of what was about to happen.
A fingertip traced the line of his spine, making him shiver, stopping briefly to rub at the fourth lumbar, slightly to the left. Then it trailed down further, four fingertips brushing over the curve of his ass, two hands parting his thighs. He sucked in a hard breath as one finger penetrated him. It was cool and warm together, slick with something. It made his cock jump and he cursed himself.
Two fingers. They scissored, stretching him wider. It hurt. Fuck, it hurt, but he could feel his cock swelling uncomfortably beneath him. He pressed his head down into the pillow so hard he started to see stars but it didn’t help. And it certainly didn’t stop him bucking back as a fingertip grazed something inside him that had him seeing stars all by itself. Riddick chuckled and did it again. Johns was disgusted when he had to bite his lip to keep from moaning.
He shivered as the fingers withdrew. He felt Riddick’s hands on his ass, spreading his cheeks, and felt the blunt head of Riddick’s cock pressing at his asshole. But Riddick didn’t move. It was infuriating. The hot, slick head of Riddick’s cock was just sitting there, pressed against the sensitive flesh of his anus, not moving. How the fuck was he going to get this over with if Riddick wasn’t going to move?
Then Riddick’s arm snaked under him, around his waist, and pulled him back. Riddick didn’t need to move. He’d moved Johns instead.
Riddick’s cock filled him, hot and slick and throbbing. And his own cock was throbbing between his legs, the head brushing against the mattress, sending shivers through him. He could feel Riddick’s chest against his back, feel it as he breathed, and as he started to move inside him.
The friction was maddening. And the heel of Riddick’s hand against the plane of his belly was infuriating. Fingertips grazed at the trail of fine hairs leading from Johns’ navel down. Johns propped himself up on his hands. And Riddick started to up the pace.
Johns almost came right there when Riddick’s took his dick in his hand and started to stroke. It was hard and fast and it felt like he was going to pass out, but the tension inside him was delicious. It started to build, higher, tighter, winding up between his shoulders and deep in his belly, Riddick’s cock grazing against that spot inside him over and over, teasing him further, blinding him with the intensity, making him gasp and gasp and moan until it was just too much. He came hard in Riddick’s hand, in thick, sticky spurts.
Riddick growled low in his throat and came inside Johns just a few seconds after, collapsing down against his back.
It was over.
Johns woke slowly, his head spinning. He hurt. He couldn’t say where exactly, just that he hurt. All over. Inside and out. He was aching in every muscle in his body. He couldn’t move his arms.
Then he turned and he remembered why.
Riddick was standing at the side of the bed, naked and glorious. The muscles of his chest and arms stood out, accentuated by the shadows cast in the dim light. There was something oddly fascinating about him just standing there. And something sickening that turned Johns’ stomach.
“What now?” he asked, his voice steadier than he’d thought it could be. For that, at least, he was grateful.
“I’ll go for the sweet spot,” Riddick said slowly, softly. “Abdominal aorta. It won’t take long.”
Johns nodded. He saw the shiv in Riddick’s hand, glinting in the low light. He saw the same metallic glint in Riddick’s eyes.
He closed his eyes. That gleam was to be the last thing he would ever see.
He felt the cold steel of the shiv against his spine. He felt it trace a path downwards, felt the sting as it pierced his skin, the cold burn as it sank in lower, deeper, biting hard and slow. He felt the hot rush of his blood spilling out over his skin.
And, mercifully, he lost consciousness soon after.
The shiv cut deep, ‘til Riddick’s fingertips were brushing against the hot flesh just inside the wound. He drew it back just a fraction of an inch, and the blood began to flow freely, spilling down over Johns’ back, soaking into the sheets and into the mattress. Such a waste.
Riddick reached for the dresser. He picked up the glass he’d left there, pressed it against the slick skin beside the wound and let the blood flow into it, filling it slowly. It was thick and red and warm, filling the clear glass with beautiful translucent scarlet. In Riddick’s eyes it almost glowed.
He moved to the chair at the foot of the bed and sat, looking back at Johns with his head cocked, holding the glass in his hands. For a moment he thought of cutting the blood with a shot of that cool Centauran whiskey, then quickly changed his mind. He drank it straight. It tasted coppery and sweet, just like he remembered.
Johns woke with a start. His head felt heavy and he felt a dull ache in his back. He opened his eyes and peered into the brightness.
He was alive.
And a doctor appeared at his side, dressed to anaemic hospital standards.
“Where am I?”
“You were attacked. You lost a lot of blood. We had to leave part of the shiv inside you. Frankly, you’re lucky to be alive, Mr. Johns.”
“I asked you ‘where am I?’ not ‘what happened to me?’ This ain’t Centauri 2.”
“You’re back at Ursa Luna, Mr. Johns. We picked up your medical bill and had you transported back to us in cryo-sleep.”
Some Slam City admin guy appeared. “It appears Riddick bested you.”
Johns scowled. Riddick. Fucking Riddick. Riddick was going to fucking pay. Riddick was going back to Slam. He’d fucking see to that or die fucking trying.
“How long ‘til I’m ready to go?” he asked.
“A week, Mr. Johns, no earlier.”
Johns smiled. The doctor frowned. Johns turned his head to the official. “Give me two weeks and we’ll see who’d bested,” he said.
And from the determined glint to the mercenary’s eye, that official had to wonder if maybe Johns was right.