As soon as Richard had left him, Riddick made for his ship. He tried to hurry without being overly conspicuous, which was made difficult by his little display of force just a moment ago. But no one made an attempt to stop him.
The tech crews eyed him as he purposefully strode aboard his ship, closing the hatch behind him. Beginning start-up procedures, he requested permission to lift off. “Port Control to landing pad four, clearance granted. Have a safe trip.”
Riddick’s lip curled into a half smirk. They sounded almost happy that he was leaving. He could only assume that it was because they didn’t want any Mercs coming around.
Firing thrusters, he lifted off from the pad and rose heavenward, the world below growing smaller and smaller before falling below the clouds. The blue of the horizon grew darker as he picked up speed, becoming black the higher he climbed. The ship shook with turbulence as it broke through the atmosphere, producing a loud crash from the sleeping quarters.
Riddick scowled, needing to clear the gravity-well of the moon and its planetary body before he could even set the auto-pilot. And that was if the ship held out long enough to even do that. After several minutes, the little ship had finally cleared the orbiting path of the planet. Setting the autopilot to take him on a direct course out of the system, he got up to investigate.
The sleeping quarters were not much more than a small alcove bunk with storage compartments over, under, and next to it. And one of those opened to reveal a foldout toilet and sink. Everything appeared to be in order, aside from a knapsack strap hanging out of one of the compartments and that the compartment beneath the bunk had not been properly latched.
Arching an eyebrow, Riddick flopped down on the bunk, promptly latching the lid to the compartment. He heard a muffled curse, and the noise of someone shifting inside of the storage compartment. And then came the soft tapping of someone knocking.
“Who is it?” he asked.
“Just let me out of here.” a girl’s voice protested.
“What’s the magic word?”
“Riddick!” she wailed.
“Close enough.”he muttered, getting up and tripping the latch.
The bunk was then pushed open, revealing a cross Esmina. “I could have suffocated in there.” she grumbled.
Riddick then grabbed her by the arms and lifted her into the air, shaking her. “You idiot!” he growled. “What are you doing here?”
She wriggled loose from his grasp and landed lithely to the deck. “What do you think? I ran away.”
“And now you’re going back.” he said, turning to head back to the controls.
“Then I’ll just find someone else to take me off that moon. And they may not be all that trustworthy…”
He whirled around, grabbing her by the shirt front. “Mina! I have Mercs on my tail and will always have them on my tail. You need to be away from me!”
Just then the ship shuddered, alerts signaling the loss of power as all but the emergency systems shut down. “Fuck!” Riddick swore, turning back toward the cockpit.
“What happened?” Esmina asked, following after him.
“What does it look like?” he muttered, killing the alarms. “We’re sitting ducks.” He then pulled up the access hatch from the floor plates, revealing various wires and components. Some of them had been torn out so that he could jack the ship.
Riddick rummaged through the parts, tracing wires back to their sources. Esmina hovered nearby, watching him. “That goes to the –” she began, Riddick silencing her with a glare.
“I know what I’m doing.” he growled.
“Yeah, well, apparently you don’t.” she snarled back, pushing him out of the way. “Just let me do this.”
Riddick then had no choice but to sit back on his heels as Esmina sorted through the mess.
“Obviously you stole this.” she said as she worked. “Because you bypassed the ignition lockouts.” She snapped a few cables together and tossed a component off to the side. “But you forgot about the lockouts on the propulsion systems. That’s why you keep stalling out.”
She then replaced the cover and gestured to the console. “Try it now.”
Riddick scowled and grumbled under his breath as he stood to activate the ship’s start-up systems again. “Looks good.” he admitted when the ship came back to life with full power.
“See? You need me.” she prodded.
“You’re still going back.” he said, plotting a course back to the moon.
“Fine.” she said quietly, sitting in the corner to watch him, knees tucked up to her chest and arms wrapped around them. “But it’s a matter of time before those Protectorate goons come by again.”
Riddick stiffened at the mention of the Protectorate. Not only had they killed Esmina’s mother, they were behind the bounty on him now.
“That’s why I’m dressed like a boy.” To prove her point, she pulled a hat from her belt and tucked her braid up into it.
Riddick could see how it would be made for a good disguise when she was younger, before she had begun to flesh out with womanhood. But now her developing curves were becoming impossible to hide.
“They’re worse than before.” she continued. “Girls younger that me… I can’t stay there anymore.”
Riddick sighed. “Don’t make me regret this.”
“So what are we going to do?” Esmina asked as Riddick readied the dispenser of the Cryo-solution. She eyed the blue liquid with distaste, but made no effort to resist.
Riddick smiled softly. “Maybe we’ll open a repair business on some little backwater and just live.”
Esmina giggled. “Just so long as you don’t try to fix anything.”
“That’s your job. I’ll just take their money.” the large man chuckled.
Esmina’s smile waned before turning serious. “Riddick, do you dream of Momma?” she asked quietly.
Riddick pursed his lips as he fitted the cuff about her forearm. “Often.” he whispered, snapping the cuff closed.
Esmina flinched as the needles bit into the flesh of her arm. “I dreamed of her in Cryo after you left the first time. She told me that I would see you again.”
Riddick helped her to lay back on the bunk. “They say that most of the brain shuts down in Cryo-sleep. All but the primitive side, the animal side.” he explained. “I think that a part of you just knew that we were going to meet again.”
Esmina shook her head, her eyelids heavy with drug-induced sleep. “No. She watches over us.” she insisted, grabbing Riddick and holding him by the hand until the drug took full effect and her arm fell slack.
He watched her for a moment, placing her arm at rest next to her side on the bunk. The blue cryo-solution fed through a tube to the cuff about her arm, a mix of sedatives and nutrients. It would sustain her body and keep her mind from going through any undo stress as they traveled through the void between star systems. They would take off for somewhere that Riddick had not been, and where the Protectorate had no foothold.
Before he left her, Riddick could not help but note the flutter of Esmina’s eyes beneath her lids.
They came to a small, outback world populated by free settlers. It was an arid world, dry, but for some annual rains. It suited their purposes just fine.
Riddick took work as a laborer, his size and strength making him ideal for heavy lifting. Esmina found a job at a small repair shop. At first the owner had thought it a joke until she had told him how to fix up a broken down sand-cat.
They made a home in a small hut, nothing more than a single room really, but it was enough. They were on their own, just living, and they were happy.
One day, when Riddick had stopped by the shop, he found Esmina in an adamant discussion with one of the other employees. The guy had only been there for just a couple of weeks, and Esmina had already had problems with him. He had a hard time understanding the word ‘no’.
“I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” he asked, casually draping an arm across her shoulders.
Esmina shook her head no, but the guy’s face twisted into a snarl and he jabbed a finger into Riddick’s chest. “Just step off, Dick.” he spat.
Riddick arched an eyebrow. Most everybody in the colony knew him as Richard Barlow, and called him Rick. “Is there a problem?” he asked, pressing Esmina into his side in an effort to back him off.
The man’s face twisted into an even more sinister expression. “This is between me and that bitch, so just butt out!”
Esmina bristled at the epitaph while an odd look crossed Riddick’s face. “Excuse me?” he asked quietly. “What did you just call her?”
“TJ, just go back to work.” Esmina urged.
“Shut up!” the man hissed, reaching out to grab her. “If I want to hear anything from you, I’ll beat it out of you!”
Riddick lost it then. He seized TJ by the wrist, applying pressure to the back of his hand, with his thumb. With a twist, Riddick then reduced the man to his hand and knees, face down on the shop floor. “You touch her, talk to her, or so much as look at her, and I’ll break you.” he murmured into the man’s ear before letting go.
Esmina stood looking at him, hands on her hips while tapping her foot when Riddick straightened. “I was handling this.” she said.
Riddick gave the barest of shrugs before putting a hand to the small of her back and leading her away.
She lay there, head pillowed on his bare chest while he twisted some of her hair around one of his fingers. “You may have made things worse.” she said, shifting her weight to her elbows as she lifted her head to look him in the eye.
“He threatened you. Am I just supposed to stand by and watch?”
“I can take care of my self.” she insisted, pulling away.
Riddick pulled her back, armed wrapped tight about her naked body. “I would kill to protect you.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.”