Chapter 26. And the beat goes on.
Contrary to popular opinion, Xela wasn’t that dangerous a place. Usually, the people who landed there didn’t come looking for trouble. Most of them just wanted a place to live in peace, or at least to start again with their lives. Some of them were ex-cons who had already paid their debt to the Galaxy, or not; some of them were ex-soldiers; some of them were ex-mercs and some of them were just damned living souls looking for a place to die.
Many of those ex-mercs had landed on Zul over the last few years. They used to live apart from the rest of the people there, considering that a high per cent of Xela’s population was ex-convicts. Some of the ex-mercs had even hunted some of those ex-convicts in more than just one case though. So, in order to prevent unnecessary and bloody confrontations, the ex-mercs used to stick together and live in one area, located on the south side of Xela city. They even had their own bars, clubs, and whorehouses to spend their time in while waiting for something out of ordinary to happen.
Between the ex-mercs and the rest of the population of Xela there was a non written truce. A truce that almost no one dared brake. As long as they kept to their side of the city, everything would be fine. There were some occasions, however, where they decided that they were in need of a little action, and with that idea in mind, they would go and look for trouble. Most of the time they found what they were looking for and little massacre would take place. Of course, those events weren’t an impediment, and it allowed them to make and keep connections all around Xela city. Information had always been considered a powerful currency, especially on Xela. However, from time to time, they would take a walk around the other areas, not exactly looking for trouble, but just to find any kind of information. It was interesting sometimes to discover who had landed lately on Zul.
There were also other men living on Xela who weren’t ex-mercs or ex-convicts. Those men had once formed part of The Firm’s spec ops army. All of them had been forced to go into exile on Xela because their behavior had been considered dishonorable under the eyes of The Firm’s Board. As part of their punishment, The Firm had laid an embargo on their accounts and upon their families’ properties. As if to be in exile on Xela wasn’t enough shame for those men who had been serving, fighting, and killing in the name of The Firm’s interest. They had followed The Board’s orders without complaint or questioning those decisions, not even once.
Alain Morris’ skills had always been useful to Xela’s population. But when he started to help the ex-soldiers, his skills had been more than useful; they had been essential. Nobody needed to ask Alain his motivation for helping those men, even though they hadn’t offered Alain probation or friendship, they were now on Alain’s side in a weird way. That was, of course, against The Firm and whatever or whoever was helping his brother. Alain had created a complex network to keep their properties and credits under their own control. He had transferred their funds to untraceable accounts, located in other systems. Their properties showed as either already sold or belonging to upstanding citizens. Because he was able to these things, Alain had become very popular with those ex-soldiers. It wasn’t that they considered Alain one of them, but they were more than grateful to him. Everybody knew that in a land full of blind people, the one-eyed man was king; or would it be better to say the shined one?
A few hours had passed since they’d left Alain and they had returned to the ship. According to local time, it must have been around noon. But it was difficult to be sure because outside it was as dark as if it were midnight.
Riddick had left Jack on board The Darkveil and then headed toward the main building of the space port to check his next launch window. As he walked, his gut told him that something wasn’t right, but he concentrated on his surroundings and went straight to the check point. The staff told him that he would need to wait at least nine more hours before he could take off from Zul; they had a technical problem with their computers that had made it impossible to establish coordinates to land, or to take off. Riddick’s inner beast roared in denial and suspicion. They had apologized profusely for the inconvenience, and were obviously scared shitless of him. Riddick had finally fixed them with his menacing silver gaze. This resulted in them saying that they would try their best to solve it as soon as possible. His beast continued to roar , and pace in its cage, extremely agitated. It knew that those fuckers were up to something. Afterward, Riddick had returned to his ship with his eyes narrowed and the animal within on high alert. His steps carried him directly to the gym without even be aware of it.
Riddick stood watching the wall with the small arsenal he had and narrowed his eyes. He was thinking about which ones would be the best weapons for Jack, just in case his suspicions were confirmed. Riddick definitely didn’t want her near any mercs, so shivs for her were out. But he also knew that he was going to need her, so a gun would be better. An automatic one. Riddick lifted a hand and absently traveled his fingers along the different automatic weapons, finally resting on one. It was of medium size and weighed almost nothing, and it was really powerful. He frowned deeply when he thought about why he had bought that specific gun. It certainly wasn’t the kind of automatic weapon he would have bought for himself. The size of his hands and fingers made using it uncomfortable. Not enough room for him to pull the trigger. So why in the hell had he gotten that damned weapon? He thought back to the time he had purchased it. Suddenly a vision of a fifteen-year-old Jack shooting an automatic gun in the middle of the desert in New Mecca popped in his mind without warning. Riddick growled still lost on his own world when realization dawned.
In their past, Riddick had spent some time showing her how to shoot a gun. Jack had always had a more than a good aim with the weapons. Riddick arched a brow when he remembered the day he had gone to buy a new set of automatic weapons. For no reason that one in particular had caught his attention and he had bought it, even though he knew for sure that he was never going to use it. Riddick then heaved a hard sigh as he shook his head. He put aside the weapon and headed toward the cockpit, thinking about Jack and her aim with guns.
While Riddick had been at the checkpoint Jack had kicked and punched the punching bag in the gym for a while; she needed to give free reign to her anger and pain. Later, she had cooked something for both of them and now she was taking a shower. She needed to relax her body and keep her mind clear. Alain had told them too much information about her past. For some unthinkable reason, she had always suspected that it had to be more than just a “natural” cause behind her parents’ deaths. Jack wondered if Riddick would be able to get a picture of her parents from The Firm’s classified files and she made a mental note to ask him for one, when it was safe enough. She then thought about all those virus’s and serums that she’d been injected in the past and wondered if some of that shit was still inside of her body, like those damned blue particles were. She looked down at her body as shuddered just thinking about that possibility. Fucking, Dr. Morris, she hissed silently.
While Jack was having her shower, Riddick hacked The Firm’s classified files with the help of the new program Alain had given him. He wanted to test if the program was as perfect as it looked. When Riddick realized that his visit to The Firm’s core had passed unnoticed, he sighed with relief and looked for a picture of Jack’s parents. He grinned as soon as a copy of the he was looking for was printed. Riddick raised it in front of him as an expectant smile graced his lips.
A two-year-old Jack was smiling broadly, sitting between her parents on what seemed to be a beach. Just a glance at Jack’s mother, and Riddick understood immediately from who Jack had inherited her beauty and her green eyes. The woman smiling at him in that picture was an older version of the woman who was right now in his shower. Riddick sighed deeply as he traced the tip of his finger along the outline of Jack’s baby face, frowning. He couldn’t help but wonder, not without a trace of amusement at his thoughts, if someday they would be able to have their own kids. And if those kids were going to look like that chubby baby who was laughing happily while looking with her big green eyes to the camera.
Riddick allowed himself to let his mind fly free to a vision of a place he hadn’t visited in years. A place hidden within the deepest part of his dark soul. A place where nobody else was allowed to enter, not even Jack. Riddick knew too well what he was going to find in that far corner, it was just a utopia. A luxury that he wouldn’t have dared to wish for. But, if he had to be honest with himself, then he had to admit that the wish had been forgotten until he had met Jack. And still then, with a bounty on his head and mercs after him, it was too far from his reach to become a reality. Riddick grunted, annoyed and frustrated, causing his inner beast to pace its cage rumbling. Right now, it seemed farther than ever before, with the fucking spec ops dogs haunting them. Riddick frowned deeply when realized something. Why in hell was he so fucking pissed off by the possibility of that fucking dream not being able to become true? Damnit, he growled silently. Fuck, Rick. You’re definitely going soft, asshole, he chuckled as his beast let out a deep growl.
Alain was grabbing a few things from a closet, when the young boy who was his apprentice came running to him so fast, that he almost stumbled over his own feet.
“Hacker!” The boy called to him. Alain turned around and looked at the boy who was leaning over with his hands on his knees. He was breathing heavily from the run, forcing the air to pass through his lungs.
“Hey! Calm down, kid,” Alain said grinning. One day he’s going to have a heart attack, he told himself silently. “Where’s the fire?” He asked as he stared at the boy, suddenly concerned.
The boy swallowed hard. His breath was ragged and he was covered in sweat. “A friend of mine told me that it’ll be a private party at the space port.” He stopped for a few seconds to take a deep breath. Alain frowned. “Everything is ready, Hacker. They’ve thought about all the details. They even have a HPW gun.” The boy took another deep breath, still trying to breath normally.
Alain narrowed his eyes at the sound of the type of weapon. Those HPW’s were really powerful. Like a paralysis gun, but ten times more effective. If you received a shoot from one of those shits, your main nerve system will be blocked in seconds and you would fall unconscious for hours, sometimes even days. Who are they expecting to shoot with that shit? Alain asked himself as he shook his head and tried to clarify his thoughts. “Who are they?” Alain asked, even though it wasn’t necessary. He knew too well who the fuckers were. But he couldn’t help it, Alain wished with all his soul that he was completely wrong.
The boy swallowed dryly. “The ex-mercs.” He said he as he cleaned the sweat from his forehead with his arm. Alain’s eyes widened as he moved forward until he was toe to toe with the boy. He didn’t need to be told who the prey was, but he wanted to hear the boy confirm his suspicions anyway.
“Who’s the honored guest?” Alain’s voice was cold and hard.
The boy moved backward and locked eyes with Alain. “The Big Evil.”
Alain’s silver eyes moved in frantic action as his mind started to race. He honestly had hoped that Riddick’s visit to Xela would have passed unnoticed, but that was obviously hadn’t happened. Richard B. Riddick’s bounty was too high. A temptation that almost no one was willing to let go, not even, or especially, ex-mercs. Alain then thought about Jack. Fuck, tiny-boy, he scolded silently.
“How many men?” He asked as he turned around and went in search of his gun.
“Dunno, maybe twenty, or twenty five.” The boy said, grabbing his own gun.
Alain stopped dead and turned around, raising his brows. “What!” He asked, shocked. In response the boy just nodded. “They went nuts…. For God’s sake! It’s gonna be a fucking massacre.” Alain muttered, thinking. Those assholes never will learn not to mess with the tiny-boy, he thought, shaking his head. It definitely wasn’t the best moment to go and fuck with Richard B. Riddick. Alain knew that Riddick was going to kill each and every merc who tried to touch him, or his woman. Especially now that he would be very pissed off after learning all the information Alain had given him. Too much balls, no brain. Bad combination, he added silently.
“Yeah. It’s been awhile since the last one.” The boy chuckled, oblivious to his mentor’s thoughts.
Alain shook his head again as he grabbed his gun and headed toward the door of his shop. The boy went motionless and looked at him as if Alain had sprouted a third eye. “Where are you going?” He asked him, amused. Alain had never taken part in any of the other “disturbances”. He had always remained apart from any conflict that had taken place. “I thought you hated violence.” The boy added as he stared at Alain. Alain turned his head and spoke over his shoulder.
“Yes. I do, but I have no other choice. So, come on, kid. Let’s dance.” He said as he loaded his gun. “I’ve even got my new dancing shoes.” He added, grinning. The boy grinned back and followed him outside. Alain locked eyes with him again. “Where’s my merc?” Alain asked as he holstered his gun down his arm.
“Your soldiers had him at the whorehouse. I think that the fucker passed out about an hour ago.” The boy explained to him as he entered the security code of the shop’s door. “That beast of Carl’s had beaten the shit out of him, but as you asked, they didn’t hit him in the face.” He added as he loaded his own gun.
“Good. But those men aren’t my soldiers, kid. They are free men who don’t belong to anyone except themselves. You better remember that, kid. For your own good.” Alain’s voice sounded serious and concerned. The boy swallowed hard and nodded yes. “Now, go and call them. Tell them I’m going to need their help. I’ll be waiting for them at the east door of the port.” He told him as he frowned deeply. “Kid?” Alain called to the boy. He stopped and turned his head to look at Alain. “Don’t tell them that the prey is Riddick, got it?” The boy nodded yes wildly and ran in the direction of the whorehouse. Alain then raised his own head and looked at the open sky.
“I’m too old for this shit.” Alain muttered in disgust as he stared at the four inmates who were blocking the entrance of Alain and Riddick’s cell. In response, one of them chuckled.
“Now, now, Hacker. That kid belongs to us, so you better move or we’ll kill you.” The man said, pointing at Alain who was in front of them with his back to Riddick. Alain turned his head to look at Riddick who was sitting with his back against the wall, looking at them nonchalantly. As if they were speaking about another kid and not about himself. He thought about his options. He wasn’t sure if that kid was worth his own life. Alain looked again at them and found himself, surprisingly, moving forward just a step, daring the inmates to make a move against him or the kid. In response the men stared at him. “Last warning, Hacker. The easy way or the hard way. What’s it gonna be?” He warned menacingly, looking over Alain’s shoulder to the kid. Alain’s body tensed in preparation at the sound of the other inmates words.
Alain had been in this type of situation before, when he had first landed in that prison, but back then he had been just twenty years old. He shuddered, thinking about those days, even though almost twenty years had passed. The inmates had made sure to give Alain a real welcome to the prison, right in accordance to his brother’s wishes. As a direct consequence Alain had spent more than three weeks in the prison’s infirmary. The doctor had studied medicine with Alain’s brother, and as soon as he had laid eyes on his old classmate’s brother, he felt pity for Alain. Dr. Morris had never been a good classmate though, so the young doctor offered to Alain an extreme and permanent solution. A shine job on his eye balls. At the time it was an intervention that nobody was allowed to practice. It was very dangerous, the patient would usually end up dead or in a some cases blind for the rest of his life. Aside from that, it was extremely painful and only reserved for special operations soldiers or miners. And even if that was the case, The Board allowed its own team of surgeons to carry it out. In both cases, only men under its close supervision were allowed to have shined eyes.
To have shined eyes would give Alain an advantage over the rest of the inmates. Alain had agreed with the doc, even back then he was very conscious of the consequences and side effects, but Alain was ready to be subjected to anything just to survive that Hell. As soon as The Firm knew about the intervention the prison’s doc had made for Alain, they revoked his license to practice medicine and he was sent to another prison, as an inmate. Butcher Bay. Unfortunately for all of them, a shine job was irreversible. Alain had survived since then thanks to his new silver eyes, which allowed him to walk around where nobody else would have dared to move.
But almost twenty years from that day, not even his silver eyes could help him right now. Alain had always been tall, but very thin. These four inmates had muscles over muscles and they seemed determined to have a piece of Riddick. Alain knew that he had nothing to use against them, but he refused to give up without fighting. He wasn’t sure about Riddick. He could be a dangerous, psycho kid, but he was still just a kid. He probably wouldn’t survive this also. Alain had known about Riddick’s last cellmate’s luck, but now they were four against two, and these four had nothing to loose.
Alain swallowed dryly and heaved a deep sigh. Shit, I’m too old for these motherfuckers, he thought as he pulled out a knife from his waistband. “You better move, assholes.” Alain warned back, his voice held a hint of fear, yet was cold and hard. “You’re not gonna touch what’s mine.” He added as he brandished the small knife in front of them.
The inmates began to laugh as soon as they saw the size of Alain’s shiv. He shuddered and fixed them with his mercurial gaze. Tightening his suddenly trembling hand around the knife he had borrowed from the prison’s kitchen during his turn as cook.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. What’s that shit?” A deep voice growled from behind him. The four inmates turned their attention to the boy, who was now on his feet. He was leaned against the wall of his cell with his arms crossed over his chest. Not one of them had seen him, nor heard him move. Some of them were still laughing. Riddick grinned an evil smile. “You’ve got to be shitting me, old man.” He chuckled as he rolled his eyes, still pretending to be ignoring the four inmate’s presence.
The man who seemed to be the boss fixed the kid with a menacing gaze. “Come here, bitch. I’ve gotta have a piece of that ass.” He said with a dirty grin on his lips. Alain’s eyes widened in panic. These four fuckers were going to rip Riddick apart.
Riddick’s raspy laugh boomed around them, causing Alain to cringe at the sound. No matter how many times he’d heard Riddick’s laugh, it always caused the same reaction in him. “If you want to mean real business….” Riddick trailed off as he pulled a shiv from out of nowhere. Its size screamed bloody death. A soon as the four inmates saw the kid’s shiv their laughter died. “You’ve got to have a piece like this, old man.” Riddick explained as he played with the shiv between his fingers. He spoke as if they were alone in the cell, his voice cold.
“What? Are you gonna kill us? The four of us?” The man mocked the kid, rolling his eyes. When the kid didn’t answer him, but fixed him with a menacing gaze, the man grinned. “Be our guest, bitch.” The man added as he moved forward.
With a fast move, Riddick rushed to him, his shiv gripped tightly in his hand. He slashed the inmate’s guts, causing a commotion around him. Others inmates started to shout, ready to enjoy a fight. Alain went pale at the sight of the pool of blood at the feet of the inmate. The other three moved backward, shocked. Alain then fixed Riddick with his silver eyes and gasped in panic. Riddick’s face was unreadable, no trace of emotion on it, just a hard cold mask. “No one fucks with me, motherfucker.” Riddick hissed through clenched teeth as he cleaned his shiv on the dead inmate’s shirt. He then slowly raised his head and looked at the other three inmates. Their eyes almost popped out of their heads. That kid had killed their pal in seconds and without hesitation. “You still want a fucking piece of my ass?” Riddick asked them, his voice deep and menacing.
They looked at each other and rushed at once against the kid who had slashed their pal’s guts. Alain moved backwards until his back was pressed against the wall. He couldn’t feel his own body. All his muscles were paralyzed with panic. His eyes moved fast, trying to follow Riddick’s moves. Alain frowned deeply and blinked, trying to focus his vision. In seconds, Riddick had the rest of the inmates laying on the floor. Blood everywhere. But they weren’t dead. Alain then stared at Riddick. He had his hands covered with blood, his breath ragged and a few drops of perspiration had formed on his forehead.
Riddick got to his feet and locked eyes with Alain. Riddick’s brown eyes flashed with a deadly gaze. Alain swallowed hard and looked down at the wounded men. He then raised his head and watched Riddick. He had moved backward and shut his eyes. Alain realized that Riddick was trembling and his hands were shaking slightly. Alain understood that the kid wasn’t just a killer. Riddick had cut those motherfuckers because he was protecting his own life. He hadn’t had any other choice. It was them or him. Alain stared at Riddick’s face and his eyes widened, shocked with what he saw on Riddick’s cheeks. Tears.
End flash back
Alain shook his head as the memory of that kid who had cried after killing a man. From that day on nobody dared to sneak around them. The kid was too unpredictable and dangerous, even for the other inmates. Better to stay away from him and his old cellmate. Riddick had spent two weeks locked in a hole as punishment for sending three men to the infirmary and one to the grave. For any other inmate it would have resulted in capital punishment, but Riddick was still considered a minor.
Alain never mentioned the tears and acted as if the incident had never happened. However, back then Riddick was only sixteen years old, he was just a kid. Alain suspected that there must have been something more behind Riddick’s violent behavior; maybe he had been abused, or maybe he had been a witness of other ones being abused when he was a child. Back then Alain didn’t know how Riddick had ended up in a prison instead of juvie, but whoever he had killed; Alain was sure that the fucker deserved it. Now it was Alain’s turn to help Riddick, so he headed toward the space port thinking about Riddick and Jack who were now in real danger.
They were sitting at the table in the kitchen, and neither of them had touched the meal served in front of them. Jack was absently playing with the necklace between her fingers, while her gaze was fixed on a spot only she could see. Riddick watched her for a long moment in complete silence. Jack had her legs crossed, sitting indian style. Her face didn’t show any trace of fear or pain; in fact it seemed as if she was relaxed and confident. Jack’s eyes were sparkling with a unique brightness. Riddick was fascinated by her mental strength. Life was beating her again and again; and she was still standing with her sanity intact and ready to face any danger that would come. Riddick couldn’t help but wonder if anything would be able to destroy her fighting spirit or kill her hopes.
“Hey, kid. Are you still with me?” His deep voice brought Jack back to reality. She shook her head slightly as if she had just awoke. She blinked and looked at him. As soon as her eyes made contact with the man she loved, a big smile graced her lips.
“Always.” Jack answered as she locked eyes with him, her voice firm. She then stood and went to his side, smiling. “What better place to be, if not around you, big guy?” Riddick leaned back in his chair and lifted his hands, grabbing her waist gently. Jack turned herself around and sat on his lap. She then leaned her back to his chest and made her rested head on his shoulder.
“Are you comfy, Jackie girl?” Riddick asked her as he slowly stroked her thighs. Jack closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Yesss….,” She answered softly as her hands rested over Riddick’s, caressing them, causing a deep growl to escape his lips.
Riddick pressed his lips to her ear. “I’ve got something for you, kid.” He murmured, his voice serious as he reached for the picture that was on the shelving behind him. Jack sat up and turned around to look at him. “Here,” He said as he gave her the picture. “I thought you would like to have it.” He added as he encircled her waist with his arms, resting his chin on her shoulder.
Riddick wasn’t sure her reaction would be, but he didn’t want to make her wait any longer. She had been waiting long enough already. Jack’s eyes went wide and she gasped, shocked. Slowly, she lifted a trembling hand to the picture and stroked her parents’ faces. A knot closed her throat as silent tears rolled down her cheeks without warning. After a long moment, Jack smiled sadly as finally she could swallow the knot, finding her voice, she spoke. “She was beautiful…” Jack trailed off, almost in a whisper.
“Yeah, just like her daughter.” Riddick answered softly as he gently kissed her wet cheek. “He’s not bad either,” Riddick added, chuckling, causing a grin to grace Jack’s lips. “You know? I never thought that a baby could laugh like that.” He growled gently as he tightened his embrace around her. Jack’s smile widened, flushing slightly she turned her head to lock eyes with him.
“Thank you, Riddick.” Jack said as she kissed his lips softly. He grinned against her lips.
“It’s nothing, kid.” He said as he frowned slightly.
Jack took a deep breath and forced new tears back. Then she brought the picture to her lips, kissing their faces slowly, almost reverently. As if she was sure that the picture was going to break. Jack turned around and encircled Riddick’s neck, burying her face in his neck, she cried softly.
Riddick knew that right now, Jack wasn’t a woman; she was again that child who had lived all her life without her parents. Riddick thought about himself. When he was a child, he had cursed his mother for dumping him in a trash bin at the back door of a liquor store. But even under the circumstances, he had thought about her more than once, especially when he had seen other children playing with their parents. They always seemed be happy; always laughing; always loved. Riddick had always tried to envision what that bitch who had given him birth looked like. He had given Jack the picture because he wanted her to meet her parents. No matter that they were dead, at least she now didn’t have to wonder anymore what they looked like; and apart from that, she could be assured that they had loved her. Back then, when Riddick was a kid, he had never been loved, just one person had show him some kind of affection and she had died long ago. Theresa Hawkins.
Riddick knew how Jack would feel right now, so he stroked her back up and down, like he had done hundreds of times before when she was scared or sad, trying to calm her down. Showing her that he would always be there, just for her, any time she would need him. Frowning, Riddick thought about Theresa, or Tess. That was what she always demanded him to call her. He found a blurry vision of the woman in his mind. In that vision, she was soothing him in a very similar way, like he was soothing Jack. Riddick shook his head and got rid of the vision almost immediately. He didn’t want to think about that bitch right now.
They stayed like that for a long moment, until she wasn’t sobbing anymore. Riddick cleared his throat, still rubbing her back up and down gently. He suspected that Jack probably would like to be alone for a while. Jack smiled shyly as she looked at him. He noticed slight shadows under her eyes and realized that their previous encounters didn’t let them sleep too much last night. Riddick grinned and thought about his little Jack underneath him. First time you’ve had a real woman in your bed, Rick, he told himself, and his grin widened.
“You look tired, kid. Our launch window won’t be for six hours. How about you sleep a couple of them?” Riddick asked her as he lifted a hand to her cheek. Jack went silent and looked down. Suddenly she felt a little embarrassed about her behavior. She thought that maybe she was acting like a little child in front of him; kissing her parent’s picture and missing them when she couldn’t remember them. A small whimper escaped her lips as she nodded, flushing slightly. Riddick frowned and grabbed her waist pulling her to her feet. “I’ll join you in a minute.” He added as he kissed her forehead. Jack let out a heavy sigh and nodded back again.
She headed toward the bedroom in complete silence. Riddick watched her walking down the hall way and he couldn’t help the deep growl that escaped his lips at the swing of her hips. In response, Jack stopped dead and turned her head to look at him. Riddick was staring at her bottom, grinning, and she could see in his eyes a look full of desire and lust. Jack smiled at him broadly, flushing even more. Riddick slowly knit a brow as a devilish grin graced his lips. She winked at him and continued walking to their bedroom. Yeah, a real woman, with a killer ass, Rick. Grinning, Riddick turned on his heels and headed to the cockpit, shaking his head.