CHAPTER .


"Which one you want to know about?" Inara asked as they entered her shuttle. It was the closest place for privacy after all... not to mention the cleanest.

Mal looked over the various comfy furniture, and hanging fabrics, before turning to Inara.

"Don't need any fancy education to tell the Doc ain't lying. Fill me in on Riddick. He who I think he is?"

"Not exactly." Inara sighed, burying her head into her hands, in exasperation.

Mal raised an eyebrow, "Mind explaining that."

"I would have if you waited a second!" Inara snapped. "This isn't exactly easy, Mal. This is a bit of a taboo topic in the guild, but everyone has heard the story at least once... What do you know about Richard B. Riddick?"

"Psycho serial killer. Been in and out of jail since he was a boy. Mostly cuz he keeps breaking out. Some folk even tried to reinstate the death penalty, just for him."

"Would you be surprised to hear that most of the people he's killed were mercs trying to collect on his bounty?"

Mal blinked at that.

"Everyone he has ever killed, were a threat to him or someone else... about the only people he does go out of his way to kill are child abusers."

Mal felt his blood run cold, "Do I want to know why?"

"No... but you need to..." She sighed, "When he was a boy, he was studying to be a companion."

Mal blinked, "He was a whore?" then his head suddenly jerked back at the force of the palm across his face.

Inara glared at him. She might not like that word, but she never slapped him over it... which answered everything Mal needed knowing about why Riddick targeted child abusers.

"That was too far, Malcolm Reynolds," Inara stared him down.

"I reckon it was," Mal rubbed his jaw. "Teacher get a bit too handsy?"

Inara continued to glare, "Short version is, Riddick killed her..." then she began to crumble in on herself, "After being under her thumb... for too long... the Alliance didn't want it getting out that something like THAT could happen to the orphans they entrust to the guild. So they covered it up, sent out a gag order, and threw the victim in prison... where he was taken in, by some half mad Doctor, who experimented on the boy, so the child could survive there. Then used, the now heavily modded boy, as his own personal muscle and inforcer.

"Based on Riddick's body language, when the Doctor was complementing his mods. He appears to think of the man as a father figure, and savior... while fully aware the man was just using him. He sees it as an equally beneficial arrangement... Also... from being modded on so frequently from such a young age, Riddick appears to be addicted to it... which is how he can recognize such work in others...

"And he wasn't bluffing, Captain. He had every intention of killing us all, and taking the ship, if you didn't change course. But, as you so often do, you managed to earn his respect with a few passionate words."

Mal nodded, "Is he a danger on my boat?"

"Not anymore." Inara assured him.

Mal considered that, "What about the girl?"

Inara smiled at that, "He sees her as his chance at redemption. She's a lot like him... been through similar hardships, and going down a bad path... he wants to save her from that... and appears to think that will earn him his place with the rest of humanity again. Though it's more then that. He feels protective of her, and really does view her like a little sister, but those emotions scare him. I got the sense, he had the chance to cut and run... but decided to stay... so she won't become like him."

Mal sighed.

"Remember Mal, he's got companion training. Even if it isn't complete. He can think hundreds of moves ahead of those that threaten him, and is good at manipulating people into doing what he wants. You get a stray thought of turning on him, he WILL pick up on it. Though I doubt he'll kill you for it. Like I said, you earned his respect. He'll likely just steal a shuttle and leave with Jack."

"Think it would make him more comfortable if I let them sleep in the other shuttle?"

Inara's eyes widened, before she yelped, "You want to make him CREW!?"

Mal looked away, "After what you said. How could I at least not offer?"

Inara sighed, for all his rough edges... Mal really was a bleeding heart.