He was hearing whispers. That wasn't new—in fact, he couldn't remember when exactly the voice had first sounded in his brain. He knew how people would react to that little piece of truth, so he didn't talk about it much. The last time he had it had been to Fry, with little Jack listening in from the stairwell.
That voice, those whispers, didn't bother him. Riddick had always recognized them as coming from another place within himself. They were part of him, and they helped keep him alive.
But now he was hearing more voices, and they defiantly were not him. He was starting to wonder if he might finally be going crazy for real. No matter where he went on the ship, he heard them. Sometimes they were almost at a conversational level, but most times he could barely make them out. Sometimes he could tell they belonged to the people around him, and sometimes he wasn't even sure they were human. He discovered they were quietest when he was alone, but that was a rare luxury these days. And even when he managed it, all he had to do was open a door to run into someone looking for him.
He knew many of the Necros had expected the Underverse to drive him insane. He had thought he had proven them wrong, but maybe they would get the last laugh after all. He considered just up and leaving—that had always been his solution in the past. The Necros would come after him, as would Wispy, and probably the rest of the known universe as well. But maybe if he left, the Underverse would lose its grip on him. Maybe those damn voices would be silenced for good.
He turned the idea over in his head, but found himself dismissing it quick. It would mean leaving Kyra—he couldn't cure her himself, and he wouldn't be able to take the doctor and all his shit along for the ride. Besides, there was Ziza to think about, and her mother. He had finally managed to track them down, and brought them to Necropolis. He wanted them out of harm's way for the Holy Man's sake, and it was safer for them here. That would change real quick if he left.
Ziza reminded him so much of Jack, sometimes he wanted to throw her in a cage, lock her up tight so no one could get at her, so she couldn't do anything crazy. So she would never lose that dumb ass hero worship, never feel blood on her fingers, never, ever say she didn't care if she died, even if it was a fucking joke.
Ziza, Lajjun, a strange sense of duty to the Elemental, and of course, Kyra. Always Kyra. Riddick swore under his breath. After all those years dodging the shackles others wanted to put him in, he'd gone and slapped them on his own wrists.
Just too damn perfect—the bastard upstairs must have been getting a good laugh out of this one.
Riddick rubbed the back of his neck, wishing the whispers would stop for just a few fucking minutes. They were giving him a bitch of a headache.
Lord Vaako watched, eyes narrowed, as the Lord Marshall argued with a representative from Helion 4. The man was distracted. Not to the point where the woman debating with him would notice, but Vaako had been observing Riddick for months. Something was wrong.
"Look," Riddick snapped, "We don't have the damn resources for what you're asking. It won't work. Get the fuck over it, and figure something else out."
The politician stalked off, offended.
She's not going to let this go, Vaako thought. It's going to cause problems.
"I know," Riddick grumbled.
Vaako wasn't sure if the Lord Marshall was responding to his servant's thoughts or his own. But Riddick wasn't normally the type to talk to himself.
Vaako muttered an excuse and left the room. He ignored the greetings of the people he passed, working to put as much space as possible between him and his Lord.
The door slammed shut. She lay on the bunk, curled into a ball because it kept her the tiniest bit warmer. They'd taken the sheets, and the mattress was sticky against her bare skin. She wasn't crying. She'd only cried once, the first time.
This one had knocked her around more than most before he got down to it. She would have to get up soon and try to stretch out the stiffness he had put in her limbs. Experience told her that if she didn't, she would barely be able to move in the morning. Just a few more minutes, then she would get down to it.
She'd stopped hoping that Riddick would come for her, even if he somehow knew she was missing. Her faith in him had always been more fragile than she'd made out. She remembered that boulder rolling across the little cave's entrance. She had been the first to speak, and her words had been, "He's not coming back, is he?"
She still wasn't sure why he had come back for them. Probably because of something Fry did. Or offered to do. Riddick was a man, after all. She knew far more than she wanted to about what motivated men.
She banished the thoughts and uncurled, moving to the floor. She started slow and easy, working her way to more advanced stretches. She couldn't do half as much as she normally could.
The door unlocked, and she froze. It wasn't feeding time, not anywhere near, and there was only one reason anyone would come in when it wasn't feeding time. Dammit, they usually gave her time to recover.
The door slid open, revealing a familiar form. For a second, she couldn't place it, it was so unexpected.
"Riddick?" she whispered, getting to her feet.
"Shoulda stayed with the Holy Man," he said, moving forward.
She grinned. It felt strange—these were muscles she hadn't stretched in a long, long time.
"It is you!"
He didn't respond, but came the rest of the way into the room. The door slid shut behind him.
"Lights dim," he said. Then he pushed his goggles onto his head. Those stunning eyes traveled over her, drinking in her naked, bruised flesh. Her smile faded.
"Riddick?" she whispered.
He moved, breathtakingly fast. Before she could react he had knocked her to the floor, his hips grinding into hers, a rough hand around her throat.
"Coming after me was real stupid," he said, hot breath tickling her ear. "But I guess I ain't complaining."
She struggled against him, then froze when she felt something hard jabbing her hip. She was turning him on.
"Hope you're as good as advertised, kid," he growled. "You don't come cheap."
"Doc?" she whispered.
He turned to see if she was addressing him.
She had tears in her eyes. "Doc? If this is real, fix me, doc. Dammit, fix me or kill me."
"I'm doing what I can," he lied. "It's good to see you lucid. Let me call Riddick."
He frowned and stepped closer, trying to be comforting. "No what? No Riddick? He really wants to see you, Kyra."
"No, no," she pleaded. "No Riddick. Please, no."
He stared at her, honestly shocked. In all this time, through all the horrors she had endured, he had never heard her beg.
A whimper. "No, no, no…"
"Fine," he agreed. "Fine. I won't call him. Try to calm down, alright? I won't call him."
She took a shaky breath and nodded. "Can you fix me?"
He hesitated, then thought, To hell with it. He was a doctor, and his duty was to his patient, not her psychopathic… friend? Lord? Lover? Whatever he was.
"There is one thing we haven't tried yet," he said slowly. "Riddick forbade it."
Her jaw clenched at the name. "Why?"
"Because the odds are good that it would erase your memory."
She made a harsh, desperate sound. It took him a moment to figure out that it was a laugh.
"So the fuck what?" she demanded. "What the hell would I want my fuckin' memories for?"
"Because-" he started, but she cut him off.
"You got any damn idea what those precious memories are even of?"
"Yes," the doctor answered. "Him."
She froze, staring into space.
"Kyra?" he asked, hoping he hadn't lost her.
"Do it," she commanded. Her quiet voice held same steel Riddick's had when he gave the opposite command.
"Are you sure?"
"Do it," she snarled.
He nodded. He had prepared the drugs before talking to the Lord Marshall, and put them in the cooler after. Now, he took them out. He felt her eyes on him as he slipped the iv into her arm and hooked them up.
It occurred to him that this might be committing suicide. But the thought flew out of his head when he looked at his patient and saw the naked relief on her face. He was a doctor—he had taken an oath. No one, not even the Riddick, would make him break it.
"Why did you call me?" Aereon asked as she studied the woman asleep in the bed.
"I think Riddick is going to kill me," the doctor answered.
The air Elemental frowned, turning to look at him. "Why would he do that? You're caring for his girl."
"And doing a better job of it than he wants me to."
Aereon paused, worried about the implications that statement could hold.
"What exactly does that mean?" she asked.
"He wouldn't let me cure her."
Wouldn't let him cure her? The Furyan wanted nothing more in the verse than for Kyra to be whole.
"That doesn't sound like Riddick."
The doctor sighed, and elaborated. Aereon listened with growing dismay.
"You're telling me that when she wakes up, she won't know who he is?"
"You idiot," she snapped.
"She asked me for it."
"She must not have understood. Dammit."
The doctor jumped—he had probably never heard her swear. She herself couldn't remember the last time she had done so.
"She must have been lucid, to be able to ask you. Why didn't you call Riddick? Those were your instructions. The first thing you're supposed to do was call him."
"She begged me not to. Begged, Aereon. What would you have done? Handed her over to him?"
The Elemental closed her eyes. Things had been going well. Now this. She honestly wasn't sure if the doctor's actions had made things better or worse. Which would enrage Riddick more—his girl pleading for strangers to keep him away, or his girl not recognizing him at all? Either was a nightmare.
Kyra had always been a constant in her calculations. Alive or dead, sane or mad, she was supposed to be with Riddick. It had never occurred to Aereon—probably never occurred to anyone—that she might willingly abandon him. To Aereon's surprise, she felt a thread of anger on the Lord Marshall's behalf. Everything he had done since she had known him, he had done for this girl. And this was how he was repaid?
She shook off those thoughts. They weren't helpful. It would take time to consider how this would affect the big picture. For now, there were things she needed to take care of. The doctor was right—Riddick would kill him over this.
"We need to get you out of here. Listen carefully…"