There was an eerie silence on the mercenary cryo-ship, the Kubla Khan, broken only by clattering of heavy boot soles on the metal plating. The air was stale, almost rank even. Toombs had only done a cursory job of cleaning – spacing the dead bodies and sloppily mopping up the blood.
“We broke off a ship for an empty Merc cryo-ship?” Vaako sneered.
“I wanted to reminisce.” Riddick said innocently. Beneath his chest plate a hand shaped mark burned against his flesh.
After five years, She had sent him here, telling him to look. But why? Toombs had sold off all of the bounties on board, and had defrosted all of the mercs that were useful to him. Aside from the stink of death and the small Necromonger force, the ship was empty. Riddick had been a rather obnoxious thorn in his side.
“Bring up the passenger manifest.” Riddick said. “See if there’s anyone who may be of interest.”
“You would have us accept this… filth into the Necromonger Faith?” Vaako demanded.
Riddick glanced at him over his shoulder, one eyebrow raised. “’We all began as something else’” Riddick said toothily.
Vaako growled and gestured for one of the men to access the console.
Riddick looked over the bridge, memories playing out as if he were watching a vid replay. Battles against a ship full of mercs. Killing of the entourage. And Jack’s first kill.
“Say again?” Riddick asked, blinking back to the present.
“The ship has been cleaned out. Aside from some two-bit bounties, most everyone is gone.” The guard turned the monitor so Riddick could see. “Except for this one. An Esmina Barlow. With a DNR order.”
“Then let’s wake her up.” Riddick ordered.
* * *
Riddick glanced absently at each tube as they passed, unsure of what he was going to find when they reached the only occupied tube after a long line of empties. Riddick stopped then, a frown creasing his brow as he studied the occupant. “Vaako, what do you make of this?” he asked quietly.
Perplexed by Riddick’s tone, Vaako stepped up to have a look for himself. “A female bounty hunter.” he spat.
“No, she’s no merc. Her hair is done up, her clothes are properly gigged, and her boots are polished. She also knows what soap is. I don’t know of any ‘bounty hunter’ like this.”
Vaako scoffed. “How does that matter? She was obviously left behind for a reason.”
Riddick reached up to touch the glass as near to her face as he could. Behind her closed eyes, he could make out the telltale signs of eye movement. “All but the Primitive side…” he murmured.
Vaako watched the actions of his Lord Marshall with disgust. The Breeder had yet to take the oath of the Lord Marshall, and yet he was giving orders. Vaako seethed, but would bide his time. His time would come.
“What?” Vaako asked.
“Nothing of importance. Wake her up.” Riddick demanded.
Vaako scowled as he gestured for one of the men to go to the controls and begin the reanimation process.
* * *
There were four of them, she knew. Only one dared to come near. The other three stood back. Watching. Waiting. It had been so long since anyone had come…
She could hear their voices, low, throaty, male. They wanted to know why he wanted to wake her. There had been a reason why she had been left behind.
A hand touched the front of the cryo-tube. Warmth against the cold nothingness. “All but the Primitive side…” She more of felt the vibrations of his words instead of hearing them.
There was the sensation of the cryo-tube being moved as the actuators lifted it and settled into place. She became more cognizant of her surroundings, able to move as the effects of cryo-sleep began to wear off. She breathed in sharply, catching the scent of her own musk. She needed a shower. Badly. Then, when the tube was lifted away, the stale air was replaced by the recycled air of the mercenary ship.
She grimaced and tensed, body coiled and ready to spring. “You’re not Toombs.” she spoke, voice husky from lack of use.
Vaako and his men watched her warily, the guards’ hands hovering over their weapons. Riddick took a step back, giving her room. “That no account Merc ain’t here.” he said simply.
She sneered. “Too bad. I was hoping to kick his ass.” She opened her eyes then, the stony gray irises taking in the man with the shaved head and black goggles. “Hello, Riddick.”
“Esmina.” He said, speaking with familiarity. He held open his arms, empty hands, palms up, as a show of good faith.
“Long time, no see.” She gingerly stepped down, legs feeling like those of a newborn deer, and let him fold her into his arms. Her eyes never left Vaako and his men. She didn’t trust Riddick, and trusted them even less. “Who are your friends?” she asked, pulling away.
“Just some ‘business associates’ that I met along the way.” A crooked smile crossed his face. “So how do you know Toombs?”
“A ‘business associate’.”
“I think we have some catching up to do.” Riddick grinned as he gestured for her to lead the way. “I have a ship waiting in the docking bay.”
Esmina nodded in assent before taking the lead. Riddick followed a step behind, turning to Vaako as he passed. “I’m finished here.”
As soon as his Lord Marshall had left his presence, Vaako turned to his nearest guard. “Arm the self-destruct.” he growled before following after Riddick.