Chapter 36. Rejoining the Human Race (Part II)
Planet Helion Prime. New Mecca. Six weeks later.
Riddick inserted the coordinates so that The Darkveil could approach Helion Prime’s atmosphere. Riddick contacted the space port of New Mecca, asking for authorization for landing. He had informed the main tower that Captain Richard Fry and his wife, Jacquelyn, both on board of “The Moon Eclipse” were reporting a minimum stay of one month, visiting locals and old friends. Riddick hadn’t used their real names or his ships identity in spite of the news that had been spread across the Galaxy. However it was too soon to be certain about what The Firm’s president next move was going to be.
Riddick knew full well that Alexander Koemborn was a man of his word, but he also knew that he was a dangerous motherfucker, and Riddick had the conviction that no matter what The Board’s official report might say, they always were going to keep an eye on him for the rest of his life. So, he was never going to let his guard down completely.
Imam took a seat on his armchair as he picked his glasses from the small table at his left side. Finally he could enjoy some kind of peace inside of his own home. Of course he gave thanks to Allah each and every day because he had at his side his beautiful woman, his beloved daughter and his new stepdaughter, Danielle. But, he had to admit that three women around himself was too much sometimes, even though he always had had endless patience.
Lajjun, Danielle and Ziza had gone early that afternoon to the market place. They had said something about shopping for a new dress for Danielle. Later they were planning to visit Kassim’s family. Imam shook his head, smiling silently when he recalled the last night conversation over the dinner.
Samir, Kassim’s older son, was back on New Mecca after he had graduated with his University grade. He was going to take care of his father’s business. Later that night at their bedroom, Lajjun said to Imam that Danielle had caught Samir’s attention when they crossed paths with him at the Town Hall. Imam remembered how he had rolled his eyes, telling his wife to not start planning something between Danielle and his best friend’s son without asking first. In response, Lajjun giggled and replied that she had already done that. Samir was a few years older than Danielle and both of them had been talking almost immediately after Lajjun introduced them.
Subconsciously, Imam grinned as he conjured a vision of his little daughter Ziza and his most recent daughter Danielle. He couldn’t help but think with pride about Danielle and how she had been so strong, pushing aside her fears and doubts, allowing his family and himself take care of her. For a second, Imam recalled the state Danielle was in when she came to New Mecca, and that painful vision caused him to conjure a vision of another girl; his first child; Jacqueline.
Imam let out a heavy sigh, forcing tears back as he put his small glasses on and picked a book from the table. Fixing his gaze on the cover he read silently. “The Beauty and The Beast.” Imam smiled sadly as he traced with his fingertips the engraved letters printed on the cover of the book, enjoying the soft sensation of the leather against his fingers.
That book had been Jack’s favorite one since the day he gave it to her and Imam never moved the book from the place where Jack left it five years ago. Imam closed his eyes, praying silently to Allah. After a long moment, he opened his eyes and fixing his gaze in a spot only he could see, painful memories overwhelmed him.
Imam walked with long strides across the streets of New Mecca. It was around midnight of one Sunday night. He had spent almost the whole day at the mosque, like he used to do, and when he returned to his house, he found it empty. No trace of Jack. His heart started to race inside of his chest as he had the suspicion that something terrible had happened to her.
Jack had never been very disciplined, but where he was concerned; she always kept her promises. He knew that she was going to pass the weekend at Kashimir’s home. Kashimir’s father, Kassim, was an old friend of Imam and he told him that they were hosting a party. Imam had excused his presence because he had to attempt his duties at the mosque. Jack was supposed to come back home that afternoon, but it had grown dark and she wasn’t still there.
Imam hurried his steps, heading directly to Kassim’s house. As soon as he arrived, Kashimir’s father opened the door to him.
“alaykum ‘as-salamu, my friend.” (Hello. Peace upon you, my friend.) Imam said as he bowed slightly his head. In response, Kassim replied while bowing as well.
“s-salam alaykumu, Imam.” (Hello. Peace upon you, too, Imam.) His words were followed by his move to one side, making room for Imam who entered the house. “What brought your unexpected visit to my home, my friend?” Kassim asked with concern on his voice. Imam frowned deeply as he heaved a hard sigh.
“Kassim, I’m looking for my child, Jacqueline. She was supposed to be at your honourable home, attending your celebration.” Imam explained as he took a seat in front of Kassim. In response, Kassim blinked confused for a second.
“Imam, my dear friend. I’m concerned about your words because Jacqueline never attended my celebration.” He replied as he offered Imam a cup of tea. Imam felt his legs go weak as a strong shudder of fear crossed his spine.
End flash back
He had made a promise to Riddick. A promised he meant to keep, but he had failed him. Imam knew full well Riddick had trusted him with the only person in the entire galaxy who meant everything to him. His kid. His little Jack. “You could take care of her, holy man.” Riddick’s words resounded deadly serious inside of his brain while he recalled all the events that took place after that long painful night.
Imam closed his eyes, praying silently to Allah, asking for guidance and advice. He needed to find Jack no matter the cost. The local authorities of New Mecca told him that there wasn’t any ship that had taken off with a fifteen year old girl on board over the last twenty four hours. Imam felt his heart breaking apart with those words. Where was his child?
During the next months, Imam spent all his time, praying and trying to find her. He contacted the elder members of the Muslim community in search of help and support, but it seemed as if Jack had vanished from the Galaxy. Imam moved heaven and earth to find her. He even tried to contact Riddick, but nothing seemed to have the desirable result. Imam refused to loose the hope and continued with his search.
A few months later, Imam met Lajjun and they married. Almost immediately, Lajjun gave Imam a beautiful daughter, Ziza. Nevertheless, inside of his heart and soul, his Jacqueline was still alive. Watching Ziza growing only served to make Jack’s memory stronger with every new day.
Jack would be always his daughter as mush as Ziza. Imam had opened his heart to her, showing Jack his unconditional love, not expecting hers in return. Not only because he felt it was his moral duty or his responsibility, but because it was what he wanted. It was the wish of his heart. Imam would never be able to forget his children, the ones who died on T2, and he always suspected that Jack felt guilty because she survived and they died. In spite of the pain that that lost caused his heart, Imam choose freely to play a father role with that girl.
They both were survivors of a terminal crash and they both would be endlessly grateful to Riddick for saving their lives. Nevertheless, those weren’t the only reasons in which their strong bond was based. Their connection was stronger than blood.
The first weeks after Riddick left, Jack buried her pain in herself unable to show any kind of emotion. Imam remembered how she locked herself inside of the room she shared with Riddick, crying in pain during endless days and nights. Imam just prayed to his God, waiting. Waiting for her to be ready to let him enter again her broken heart. Imam knew for sure that Jack was stronger than it seemed at the first sight. And that she only needed time to heal her painful wound. But Imam also knew full well that those wounds, the ones from the soul, were sometimes hopeless. Still, he refused to let Jack fall apart. Back then and after Riddick left without saying ‘good bye’, Imam was afraid of loosing Jack too.
After what it seemed an eternity for the old wise holy man, Jack finally allowed him a place inside of her aching heart and, from that day and on, their connection grew stronger. Like an invisible lace made off steel that nobody would be able to break, not even themselves, even if they wanted. Love, understanding and trust were their guidance along the path they started to follow together. They didn’t know what the future had in store for them and, certainly, neither Imam or Jack had experience concerning a father – daughter relationship, but they managed to walk that path together.
Deep inside of his heart, Imam was sure that someday he would be able to see his daughter again. With that hope wrapped around his heart, Imam embraced his faith with even more strength than ever before, praying silently for her safety, wishing that wherever Jack was, she would be safe. He held that invisible lace like his dear life and continued looking for his child.
After five years of unfruitful search, waiting in vain to find her, Imam came home one day and found a message for him. As soon as he fixed his tired eyes on the screen he knew who was the sender.
- Gemini system. Planet Thalion. Danielle Petersen.
Where the hell is your God now, holy man? -
Those were the only words flashing at him in a black screen. Imam couldn’t explain himself the reason why, but he knew then and there deep inside of his heart that Riddick had found Jack. Even though that message didn’t make a single mention of her, he simply knew.
Imam contacted with the nearest Muslim community. It was located at the other planet of Gemini system, Thalis, asking them for their help to find Danielle. It was then that Danielle talked with him, telling Imam everything she knew about Audrey Jacqueline Travis and Richard B. Riddick. He didn’t find peace inside of his soul with that revelation.
Riddick and Jack were together again. That was true, but such intel made him felt uneasy. Even though he was sure that at least Jack was safe with Riddick, Imam couldn’t push aside the feeling that they both were in danger. Once again, he did the only thing he could, pray for them, hoping they were safe and sound. But inside of his heart, he was praying, asking silently to Allah to allow Riddick forgive him for his fault and making him be able to give Jack what she so desperately needed more than air to breath. His love.
Imam shook his head, dissolving his thoughts and stood, leaving the book and his glasses on the small table. Imam went motionless as he closed his eyes, feeling his heart beating fast inside of his chest. At that exact moment, he knew his child was outside of his house; his home, their home.
Jack looked at the house she had always considered her home. The only place when she felt loved. The only place in which she had been happy since she was a little child. Her home. Their home. Jack knew even she didn’t need to be told that Imam was inside and she couldn’t explain herself but she knew he was waiting for her.
A little more than five years had passed and it seemed to her an eternity. So many things had changed since then. She wasn’t anymore that girl who lived with a holy man, going to school every day, doing homework, while pretending to be happy. She was now a young woman, who had killed mercs and was now sharing her life with the only man she had loved since the first time she laid eyes on him, the infamous Richard B. Riddick.
At that moment, Jack wasn’t sure what would be Imam’s reaction when he knew all the events that had taken place since the day they were separated. Imam always had been proud of her, but now? Jack went motionless, unable to make her muscles move at all. She was frozen in place, overwhelmed with memories.
Jack left the house telling Imam she was going to a weekend party after school. Kashimir’s house, Jack remembered. “Allah protect you my child.” Imam’s last words echoed faintly inside of her brain, his voice solemn and full of pride to her. Jack swallowed hard as she took a deep breath, trying to calm her breathing that was now ragged.
The house was exactly as she remembered it. Nothing had changed over the years. The double wooden door was closed, but she knew that it wasn’t locked. Imam always left them open just like his heart. An unconscious smile graced Jack’s lips when she remembered him dressed in his loose robes, kneeling in the direction where the sun goes down, praying silently sacred words in Arabic, almost in an inaudible murmur.
Jack chuckled at her vision. She never understood a single word he said, but she always felt an overwhelming peace washing over her, like an invisible warm veil, just listening to him, praying. His voice floating in the air through each and every room, filling her with hope and joy, healing day after day, without being aware of that fact, her aching heart and soul.
Jack saw herself, hidden behind the doorframe with her eyes closed, listening to Imam’s voice. Silent tears were already rolling down her cheeks when Jack conjured a vision of both of them, locking eyes in complete silence. Imam always knew she was behind the door, listening to him, but he never said that aloud. No need though. They both knew it and it was enough.
“Jack?” Riddick asked as he encircled her waist, pulling Jack out of her thoughts. Jack looked at him directly at his silver eyes, fighting fresh tears back.
“I’m scared, Riddick.” She admitted almost in a murmur. Riddick knit a brow, narrowing his eyes. He knew full well why she was scared. Jack couldn’t push aside the painful suspicion. What if Imam had forgotten her over the years? What if Imam didn’t love her anymore?
“I love you, Jack.” He found himself saying, bending his head capturing her lips in a slow gentle kiss. Jack pressed her body against him, encircling his neck. Riddick growled softly as he reluctantly released her lips.
“I love you, Riddick.” Jack murmured as she brushed her lips with his.
Suddenly the main door opened and Riddick lifted his head, staring at the figure standing a few meters of them. Imam. Jack turned her head, following Riddick’s gaze and gasped soundlessly. Her heart started to beat faster and she swallowed one more time, hard.
Imam’s heart skipped as he locked eyes with Jack. Without a second thought, he opened his arms completely, giving silently thanks to Allah, because his Jacqueline was back, safe and sound. Nobody knew the living hell in which he had been immersed since that day in which Jack left to go to school and never came back. And even though the woman in front of him had nothing to do physically with the girl he remembered and missed for five years, he saw in her eyes that fifteen years old girl who would live forever inside of his heart.
Finally Imam moved one step forward, his robes floating slightly with the night breeze, causing the effect as if he wasn’t walking but sliding across the floor in an ethereal move.
“Jacqueline…” He trailed off, letting his tears run free. Riddick let go of Jack and moved one step backward.
“Imam” Jack blinked her tears and without a second thought, she rushed to him. Imam closed his arms around her body.
“Jacqueline. My child.” He sighed hard as he tightened his hold, pressing Jack against his chest.
Even after five years not knowing about each other, the strong connection were still there. Their lace made of love, trust and hope was more visible than ever before. Jack had been so scared, wondering if Imam would forget her, that she herself forgot that Imam was the only father she had known and loved.
“Father…” was all Jack could say before her throat closed completely as she shut her eyes tightly.
The news about Richard B. Riddick had always been regarding his criminal records all around the systems, but for the first time in years, the news was another whole completely different one. The Firm’s Board official report had been made public. Richard B. Riddick’s bounty was no longer in force. From that day and on, there wouldn’t be a single prison that would be interested in him; no more mercs would hunt Riddick. Alexander van Koemborn III had kept his word.
Riddick stared at the ceiling of their old bedroom thinking about the last couple of days, and after a long moment, he closed his eyes, blocking inside of his brain any other thought or idea, concentrating on one single word. Riddick let that word spread inside of his mind in all its glory, allowing himself the feeling of finally be able to enjoy it. A caressed dream that it had been always out of his reach. Unable to let himself wish or dare to even think about that word since he was a kid. Freedom? his own voice echoed faintly inside of his brain.
“Freedom…” Riddick murmured almost to himself, savoring the taste of that simple word in his lips like if it was the most delicious dish. The nourishment of the soul.
People didn’t know the real meaning of that word. But Riddick knew it. They had no idea about how the lost of freedom would lead anyone to their self-destruction. But, he knew it. Most people never would be able to think about how to survive without it. But, he knew it. They never would be able to understand the meaning of freedom because they always took it for granted. But he knew it. They never would be able to know what a person would be able to do to keep their freedom. But he knew it. They had no idea about the real implications of enjoying such privilege. Yes. A privilege. But, he knew it. And Riddick knew it because he had lost his freedom many years ago.
Riddick was in a place he never though he would be. He had between his arms the only woman he had ever loved. He had ahead of him a whole complete different kind of life waiting for him. He was going to be able to enjoy the privilege of being free, sharing that freedom with his little Jack, with his woman.
Riddick thought about the implications of that feeling as he allowed himself, for the second time since he met Jack, to let his mind fly free to that 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 had been allowed to enter, not even Jack. Riddick always had known that what lived in that far corner, it was an utopia. A luxury that he wouldn’t have dared to wish for. Until now.
“Riddick?” Jack’s soft voice pulled him out of his thoughts. “Are you ok, big guy?” She asked as she stroked his cheek gently. Riddick turned his head and looked directly at her green eyes.
“I’m free, kid.” He whispered as his silver eyes flickered to Jack’s, his deep voice hoarse and strangled. She felt her heart skip a beat, matching Riddick’s heartbeat at the sound of his words. Jack nodded ‘yes’, not trusting her own voice at that moment, smiling broadly, her eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
Jack was the only person in all the universe who understood what freedom meant for him. Jack was the only person in all the universe who was able to understand the real motivations that led him to kill in the first place. It wasn’t just a question of survival instinct, it was also a question of being able to enjoy freedom. For all those upstanding civilized citizens, Riddick was just a heartless monster, a cold killer, but for Jack, Riddick was a man who had been searching desperately for his freedom. And, she was able to understand him because she had lost her own freedom too.
They locked eyes, causing the time to stop around them. Swallowing the invisible knot in her throat, Jack found her voice.
“You’re free, Riddick.” She murmured, a breath away frombhis lips as she encircled his neck, pressing her naked body to him.
“I’m free, Jack.” Riddick repeated as if trying to convince himself that his most precious out of reach dream actually came true. Jack tightened her embrace around him even more. She wasn’t close enough to him. Riddick encircled her waist and buried his face on her neck, inhaling deeply her essence, feeling his lungs filled with it.
Closing his eyes, Riddick concentrated on the vision of that place as he took a ragged breath and did something he never had done since he was sixteen years old, allowing himself to give the final step to rejoin the human race.
Riddick had started to follow that path, without being aware of it, the second he changed his mind and went back to that cave, saving Jack and Imam from a sure death. Carolyn sacrificed her life for him, showing Riddick that his own life was worthy of being saved, even if back then, he didn’t share that conviction with her.
During the following days on board of that skiff, with the constant uncertainty of his future, Riddick thought endless hours about Carolyn’s words and actions, and it was then when he realized he could have an opportunity to live a normal life. Then, his nightmares came back, hunting his dream, making him leave the only other human being who meant everything for him, Jack. Consciously and without a second thought, Riddick abandoned her and returned to the darkness where he felt secure and safe, allowing his inner beast to lead his acts.
Once again, Jack was the one who helped him to find that path again. The one he had been forced to leave to be able to survive after the painful loss. The first time she said ‘I love you’, Riddick felt like dying inside, unable to believe that someone would be able to love him.
Tears rolled down his cheeks with unrestrained force, wiping away years of pain, anger and loneliness in their silent path. Closing wounds. Leaving behind his nightmares and his fears. Riddick cried silently until there were no more tears to be shed.
Jack felt her heart breaking at the sign of his silent tears, wetting her shoulder. She closed her eyes and moved her hand, stroking his broad back up and down, murmuring soothing words to him in the similar way he had soothed her in so many occasions in the past. Feeling his pain and rage fading slowly while those tears were shed. Sharing with him those emotions and feelings that had been restrained for so many years.
She never had believed in Fate until that night. Fate always seemed to be more than ready to fuck her again and again. Fate had forced her to experience so much pain and rage, more than anyone should be made to suffer. But, Fate had made her cross paths with another human being who had experienced much more pain and rage than herself.
Jack closed her eyes, letting her own tears free as she understood for the first time in all her life what was the meaning of two words she had heard on a couple of occasions. Those two simple words were the ultimate reason why they were together right now and why they had felt an invisible strong connection since the very first time they locked eyes. Those two words were the reason why they would share their life from now on together, not allowing anybody to tear them apart anymore. They never would be two again; they would be from now on just one. So different and yet so similar, Jack said to herself as realization dawned.
They were soul mates.