They came for him a few weeks later. Mercs. Riddick saw their ship as they did a flyby of the colony before it landed at the port – scoping out the scene to have an idea of what they were dealing with. Riddick immediately slipped off to go to Esmina.
She and TJ met him part of the way, TJ holding a gun to her head. “I’m fine, but he killed Dyce and Chico.”
TJ grinned, all teeth and malice. “Richard Barlow, also know as Richard B. Riddick, also known as Riddick. You are under arrest. Surrender yourself now.”
Riddick started to laugh, a deep, throaty chuckle. “I see it now.” he said. “She had you pegged from the beginning there, TJ.”
“Shut up and get on the ground.” TJ snarled. “Or I’ll kill the bitch.”
Riddick wanted to resist, but the glint in Esmina’s eyes convinced him otherwise. “Whatever you say, you’re the boss.” he said, lowering himself to the ground.
Esmina burst into action, kicking at TJ’s feet while snapping a hand up to grab the barrel of the gun. With a twist of her body, TJ was face first in the dirt and the gun safely out of his reach. As he moved to get up, Riddick lunged forward and knocked him out cold.
“Come on.” Riddick urged, taking firm hold of Esmina’s hand and pulling her along.
“I guess they found you.” she said, easily keeping pace with him.
Riddick was angry with himself. He got himself into this mess, it was his duty to pay for it. But now she was caught up in it, and they had just tried to use her against him. Seeming to know exactly what he was thinking, Esmina stopped and wrenched free of his grip.
“It was my choice to come with you.” she jerked her thumb toward her chest. “We’re in this together, dammit!” Riddick clenched his jaw and dipped his head in acknowledgment before taking her by the hand again, lacing his fingers between hers before they started running again.
They were almost to the stockyard for a rail system that hauled heavy equipment from town to town. Riddick thought that they could use it for cover until they could catch the freight train to another town and then a ship off-world from there.
But they never made it.
The Mercs were lying in wait for them there, at least two drop ship’s worth as far as Riddick could tell. No sooner had the two entered the stockyard, than they were surrounded. Riddick and Esmina immediately went back to back to face the onslaught. They came at them with shock sticks, knowing that it was best to keep from Riddick’s reach. To Riddick, it confirmed that he was to be taken alive.
One large brute in particular sent Riddick reeling with a good blow after a shock to the back of the neck, enabling the mob to separate himself and Esmina. She tried desperately to get to him, but they brandished the shock sticks at her. Until she wrestled one away from them and went on the offensive.
She had already dispatched two before it registered with the Mercs that she could handle herself in a fight. By then, the others had dog-piled on Riddick before he could recover himself, clamping shackles on his hands and feet. The big brute then confronted Esmina, toying with her like a cat would a mouse, before punching her in the stomach with a meaty fist. She crumpled to the ground then, and he lifted her by the waist of her pants like she was nothing.
When Riddick opened his eyes, a man stood before him. He wore a white lab coat buttoned up to his neck and black safety goggles over his eyes. He looked like some kind of scientist. Deep Max… Riddick thought.
“Welcome to Altair, Mr. Riddick.” the man said.
“Never heard of it.” Riddick said, flexing his arms as he tested the shackles that held him to the wall.
The man smiled, his teeth bright white and perfectly straight. “I think you’ll find those more than adequate to hold you.”
“Just put me in Deep Storage already.”
“No, Mr. Riddick, we have plans for you.” He then walked over to a nearby console, activating a view screen embedded in the wall. When the image came up, it was from a corner camera of a cell not too unlike the one Riddick occupied. Held within it, was Esmina.
Riddick failed to stifle the growl in his throat and the ‘Warden’ flashed a beastly grin. “Given your past history, we feel that some form of… incentive needs to be employed.” he said.
“She has no part in this.” Riddick insisted.
“And that is where you are wrong. She has a big part in this.” The screen changed, showing a still image of Esmina’s adoptive father. He had been beaten to death. “He was less than helpful when we first contacted him, I’m afraid.”
The screen went back to the feed from Esmina’s cell. She paced along the walls, looking for any sign of weakness or a vantage point that could be exploited. They would have to bring her food at some point.
“No, Mr. Riddick. We are very displeased with you.” He returned to stand before Riddick, who chafed at the restraints holding him to the wall. “And since incarceration has failed to curb your behavior, you have left us very little choice.” He made to leave. “This feed is live, by the way.” He then turned and left the cell.
Riddick struggled against the shackles on his wrists and ankles. They mounted him directly to the wall, no chains. He couldn’t sit, he couldn’t shift his weight. The only thing he could do was fume and watch Esmina on the monitor.
She continued to pace her cell, mostly in a manner to kill time, but he could almost see her mind at work, mulling over the situation and how to apply her skills. He couldn’t help but admire how she handled herself under pressure.
After a time, she settled, taking an uneasy nap.
Esmina had not been at rest for too long when the door to her cell opened and a group of men entered. Riddick struggled in the shackles, their intentions clearly sinister.
Audio came up with the video feed, enabling him to hear their jeers and insults. When they tried to grab her, Esmina fought back, but they were too many for her on her own in such a cramped space. One of them struck her in the face hard enough to send her to her knees. And then they were on her.
Riddick was powerless as Esmina screamed for help. Screamed for them to stop as they beat her and tore off her clothes. Screamed as they raped her. She only stopped screaming when she lost consciousness.
Blood ran from Riddick’s wrists and down his arms in his struggle against the shackles. He growled, yelled, and hollered with fury at what they had done. He was nothing but a caged animal to them.
When they had finished their sport with Esmina, they left her lay in a pool of her own blood and filth. She lay still for a long while until the screen went black. Riddick’s heart pounded in his throat, from rage filled adrenaline as well as not knowing whether she was alive or dead.
After what felt like hours, the door to Riddick’s cell was opened and Esmina was thrown inside. No one else entered, and the door was closed and bolted. He was unable to breath as he waited for her to show a sign of life, straining his eyes and ears for the slightest movement. A gurgle issued from her throat, and her body twitched slightly, but she was indeed alive.
It pained Riddick to look upon her badly beaten and abused body. To have been made to watch as it had happened. And now she was so close to him, but he was unable to comfort her, at least for his own sake.
He didn’t realize that he had passed out until he opened his eyes and saw Esmina huddled at his feet. “Riddick?” She asked, unsteadily getting to her feet. She pressed herself to him, forehead resting against his cheek.
“I’m sorry.” He stammered.
She put her fingers to his lips, silencing him. “It’s okay.” Her voice was filled with false bravado.
Her slight frame was covered in red marks quickly turning shades of black and blue. Her brown eyes were already ringed with black, and the beatings to her face were swelling, and dried blood that had spilled from an undoubtedly broken nose. Her steps were slow and halting as she gingerly moved to study the shackles at his wrists. “I may be able to short these out if I had something I could use…”
A cursory glance of the room proved fruitless. It was as spartan as her own cell had been. Knowing it would be useless, she checked Riddick’s pockets. Even going so far as to remove his belt in her search for a suitable pick.
“If things were different, this would be kinda kinky.” She said, trying to bring some levity to the situation. Riddick only growled low in his throat.
Arching an eyebrow, Esmina successfully dismantled the latch on Riddick’s belt, and dropping the casing to the floor, holding up a round piece of metal no more than two inches long. “They should not underestimate the resourcefulness of a repair technician.” She murmured, going to work on the circuit of the shackle holding Riddick’s left wrist. “This may sting.”
She prodded around until she found the correct circuit, then jammed the pin into it. A current of electricity shot through them both, but all four of the manacles holding Riddick to the wall popped open. He then fell away from the wall to land in a heap on the floor.
“Are you alright?” Esmina asked, kneeling down to check on him.
Riddick groaned and winced from the stiffness of being suspended from the wall for so long. “I’m fine.” He said, but from his gravelly tone, Esmina knew he was angry.
Riddick having shrugged off her assistance, Esmina sat back on her heels to watch as he levered himself to his feet. He moved slowly, working the tension from his muscles and joints. But then with a quickness that surprised her, he caught Esmina up in his arms and held her tight.
She relaxed into his arms, allowing all the pain and grief she had been holding back to spill out. Clenching his shirt with both hands, silent and wracking sobs shook them both. Riddick held her even tighter, all but breaking her ribs.
His eyes were unable to leave the congealed blood that smeared the floor. Nor the dull and dark clots of womb tissue that lay there. They had taken far more from him than what he was ever willing to give, and he was going to make them pay.
“I will kill them all.” He snarled.