Chapter 3: The Firm.
Fifty-eight known planets, in seventeen systems, and all of them under the supervision of the government; eight systems located out in the frontiers, unexplored. How could such a vast territory be controlled? The Firm.
The Firm was an administrative council that functioned in much the same way of the corporations did in early 21st century, specifically around the year 2005. It was a financial institution that’s main function was the exploration, and exploitation, of the unknown systems. The Firm’s highest level, The Board, was made up of twelve members, one person from each of the twelve most powerful families. These families were both strong in political and financial influence. The members, since membership was inherited through the father, were groomed from the time they were born to take their position on The Board. All of them, currently men who were in their late fifties, were bureaucrats without scruples. They live their lives so far from daily reality, that they sat in their chairs and decided the fate of the millions as if they were playing a game of chess. Their motivation: power and money. Their goal: control. Their methods: sinister.
Riddick stared at the ceiling of his room with his jaw clenched and his hands in fists. Unable to sleep, he was lost in his thoughts. Five years. Five fucking years, he thought to himself. He had stayed away from her, away from her smile, away from the brightness of her eyes. He thought about that kid who had been living with him for nearly six months and felt he had sunk to ground level. What a bizarre sensation.
In the presence of the known universe, Richard B. Riddick had descended to Hell and returned victorious after defeating the big evil himself, taking his personality to bring with him the pure essence of the devil, scattering pain, death and destruction in his path. Gifted with a supernatural intelligence and inspired by just one primal instinct: survival. Richard B. Riddick was a survivor born.
The animal within overpowered him the night he left Jack behind. That night he renounced her, and without noticing it, his own soul as well. Without any thing else that he could hold onto to survive, Riddick surrendered to his killer instincts and the beast within dragged him to a world full of death, blood and loneliness. After a couple of months he accepted the offer from The Firm, what better way to give his fury free reign?
Now, at the present moment, after five years, Riddick felt overwhelmed by the same sensation that had overcome him after his dream. Fear. Fear for Jack. The animal within didn’t like that sensation and wanted blood. Riddick stood and headed to the cockpit. He inserted the silver card one more time and confirmed the available information about his target. He had two weeks to kill the target and he only needed one week to reach the planet Thalion. He sighed and leaned back in his chair, putting his legs in front of him up onto the panel, he crossed his arms over his chest and closed his eyes. After five years, the time had come. Richard B. Riddick was ready to fight with his most dreadful enemy. Himself.
When Jack was three years old a plague devastated her planet and her parents had died along with three quarters of the population. The only survivors were children under five years of age. Due to the magnitude of the tragedy, The Firm decided that the children would be relocated on other planets. Families adopted some of them and others were sent to boarding schools; but there were a lot of them, so The Firm established foster houses that would be under its close supervision. These houses were called “homes in transit”, because the children were only there for a maximum of three years, in order that all the children the same age were kept together. So under this basis, Jack went rolling from one house to another as she was growing, like many other children her same age. Tired of been manipulated, abused and ignored, she decided to run away and ended up on board the HG, disguised as a boy. After surviving the planet T2 and landing in New Mecca with Riddick and Imam, she made a promise to herself. She would die before going back to any of these “homes in transit”, and made Riddick promise her as well that he would never let anyone send her to any other institution under the supervision of The Firm.
Two planets were located inside of Gemini system. Thalion and Thalis. They rotated in the orbit of one sun and two moons. Twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of night. The Firm had a strong investment in these two planets because they were full of mineral resources.
The complex named North Hills had been the place where Jack had lived for the last five years. Together with others and under the direct supervision of the government, Jack finished her studies and now she worked as an employee of one the multiple companies that belonged to The Firm. Her job consisted in check for cracks and fissures along the hills in the north area of the planet Thalion. The complex had three levels, students, employees and managers and was located right in the center of the main city. Jack shared an apartment with Danielle. It wasn’t a luxurious one but you could find inside anything you might need to live comfortable. In spite of Thalion being a peaceful planet, it wasn’t a safe place. Always in constant need of manual labor and with no interest in asking many questions, every day many ships landed in their ports with plenty of people without clean files. Too many whorehouses, bars and dark alleys surrounded the city.
Danielle and Jack were dinning in silence. They had been living together for the past five years, first like classmates and now as friends. They met in the hospital. Danielle’s father had beaten the shit out of her. Jack had never told Danielle the reason why she was there. From the beginning Jack had always been shy and distant with everyone, including Danielle. Nevertheless, in the past few weeks her silence had grown more and more. Jack spent almost all day in complete silence and locked in her room, going out only to work. During those five years Danielle had suspected that her past had strong similarities with her own. Most of the girls there shared their experiences and feelings, but Jack never took part in any activity, meeting or party. Most of the time she just seemed to be lost in her thoughts, and on the few occasions that Danielle tried to make her speak about her past, revealing her feelings, Jack simply changed the subject to something irrelevant.
Once, curiosity got the best of her, and while Jack was at school Danielle went through her things looking for some information about Jack’s past. Among some papers, she found a document from the hospital. She had no grasp of medical subjects, but there was a note attached to it. She read it in high voice. “The patient, female, shows a loss of selective memory, probably caused by a strong physical or psychological trauma. Non-conclusive diagnostic. Treatment with sampling medicine under governmental control”. Danielle did find a black box hidden deep inside her drawer though, when she opened the box, she saw a small syringe and red ampoules. Danielle couldn’t get up the nerve to ask her without revealing that she had been sneaking through her things. So she kept silent and waited for Jack to be ready to confess. But it had been almost four years since that day and that confession never did come.
When they finished cooking their dinner, they gathered the plates and headed to the living area to watch the news as they did every day. They were showing a crime that had occurred in a system close to Gemini. The mutilated bodies of two men were shown without revealing any detail. The descriptions of the injuries were almost pornographically revealed. According to first’s research the main suspect was Richard B. Riddick. Suddenly a picture of him appeared on the screen. Danielle shivered when she saw the convict. Riddick was in the picture chained by his wrists and ankles, blindfolded and with a bit in his mouth. It seemed that they took the picture when Riddick was on his way back to slam, the day he boarded the HG, as they were explaining to the audience.
Jack stared at the screen. An unexpected sensation overwhelmed her as silent tears were shed. Danielle saw her reaction and looked at her as if she had just sprouted a third eye.
“Don’t you cry for that animal, Audrey. Don’t you dare”, she said angry.
Jack looked at her and without saying a word, she raised from the couch and headed to her bedroom, closing and locking the door behind her. When Danielle heard the door, she shook her head and changed the channel.
Jack leaned her back to the wall and slid to the floor. Bringing her knees to her chest she held them and rested her head there. Tears now were spilling uncontrolled and she felt as if her heart had been ripped apart from her body. She repeated to herself why the hell am I crying for a convicted murderer? Why did seeing him chained like an animal make her feel so sad? By chance those mercs were more worthy of her tears, weren’t they? After all they were trying to chase him. Why had she felt so empty and alone?
She then shut her eyes tightly. Certainly when you see someone chained like that it isn’t a nice view, but this man was a dangerous serial killer, a beast, wasn’t he? A convicted murderer famous for the cruelty he used to show when he killed his victims. Only hearing his name made everybody sweat with fear, not to mention his semblance and physical presence. Don’t you cry for him, don’t you dare, she thought about Danielle’s words. Funny how for a few seconds she had the sensation that she had heard those words before but couldn’t place them. Richard B. Riddick, escaped convict and murderer, she said to herself.
She felt her body aching with pain as she stood and climbed in her bed. Wrapping her arms around the pillow she let the tears fall freely, and finally, she fell asleep lost in her thoughts.