Chap 1: Welcome to Tangiers
FORMALITIES: The character of Richard Riddick as well as mentions of Sigma 3, Spitfires, Tangiers Penal Colony, Altair Prison Network and other elements taken from the context of the movies Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, their novelizations and their official websites are copyrighted to Universal Studios. The manner of their use and everything else in Turn About is the creative creation of Amita4ever.
REVIEWS ALWAYS APPRECIATED: Good ones I enjoy, critical ones I value, and those that include specifics I love!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just to set the stage, time wise, this tale is before Pitch Black; before his shine job.
There was a new name floating around. The Shadow.
It was a name heard in certain circles, inside prisons mostly, given for
the lack of any other. The Shadow was a
bounty hunter. The more perceptive of
those that had encountered the Shadow would say they’d thought someone might
have been tailing them for a week or so... invisible, not pushing, not
pressing, just following, shadowing, then there were others who were
clueless. The thing they all had in common
was one moment they were free, the next thing they knew they were waking from
cryosleep in a prison med ward. No one
knew if the Shadow was a single man or a crew.
They only knew that the Shadow went for the big dogs and Riddick knew,
sooner or later, the Shadow would be coming after him.
And so they had.
The trap had been neatly laid. Riddick had the inkling that someone might be sniffing at his tail for near on a month. Had felt them -- felt them close on occasion -- but they’d been slick as melting ice. The planet had been Riddick’s choice. So had the city and even the cantina, but he’d never seen them - not till he opened his eyes and found himself locked down in a cryotube. That was one thing the Shadow hadn’t counted on – this payday didn’t sleep in cryo.
The Shadow, it seemed, was a crew. The leader was a man named Jenner, and he was smooth. Way smoother than he seemed in person, evidently, but who was Riddick to argue with first impressions. It was results that mattered, and even the restraints had been well thought out so the results were him listening as Jenner requested clearance to approach Tangiers Penal Colony where he and his crew expected to collect an 850,000 credit bounty… but they weren’t there yet. Even if they got Riddick there, there was no guarantee Tangiers could hold him, although he’d rather not have to test that theory. Better if he could do something before they got him inside.
Riddick knew he was suppose to be asleep, but since cryo didn’t to affect him the way it did civilized people, he’d had the occasion to look around... to study the rest of the 'bodies' on board. There were five in all. So far as the bounty hunters went, the two women and the 'grunt' seemed standard issue. The leader, Jenner, on the other hand, had some 'augmentation'. At least one of the bounty hunter's eyes was souped up with tech but the scars around it led Riddick to believe it might not have been completely voluntary. If that was the case, Riddick probably wouldn't need to worry about fighting someone with 'super' strength, but it still put Jenner high on the list of priorities just in case.
Cybernetic enhancements were not unheard of among mercs, some more than others, but Riddick himself had shied away from them. Artificial eyes like Jenner's could be programmed to do all sorts of things from seeing in low light, to picking up infrared and targeting, but all cybernetics had one thing in common... They were tech, and technology meant wires, circuits, neural interfaces...
Tech meant it was only a matter of time before it broke, before wires burned out, before circuits fused, before interfaces malfunctioned or needed upgrading. Tech might be handy, but there was no way in hell Riddick was replacing perfectly good organics with fallible artificial junk. He had heard a rumor of something called 'shining' just before he cut fence on Hubble Bay Penal. One of those 'friend of a friend of a friend heard' kinds of things... some sort of process that added reflective gel to the retina making eyes that shined like a cats... an organic way to let human eyes see in the dark, but it sounded more hype than real.
The last 'body' on the ship was in another lockdown tube. There were four tubes in all, two on either side of the narrow deck. Two were empty, but the one across from him had a woman in it. She’d been there when he woke up so she'd probably been cryo’d before he was, but there was no telling how long. The tubes angled partially forward, but Riddick's view of the other occupant was hindered more by position than angle. Her face was canted awkwardly, tilted to the side at an uncomfortable angle that dropped her hair half over her eyes.
He could see enough to make some generalizations. Her clothes said civilian, middle class or better, and Riddick guessed her for new to early 20s, although she might be older. That was hard to tell sometimes. One thing he was sure of, though... by a fresh bruise on her cheek and her disheveled, roughed up appearance he could tell she'd been in a fight just before she'd been cryoed, and her position in the tube told him she hadn't climbed in willingly. In fact, she'd already been unconscious, and the people who put her there had little concern for her comfort. He was willing to bet there was no love lost between her and the mercs. As for the crew, they simply ignored her. So far as they were concerned, she didn’t exist. She didn't look like your typical payday, and she certainly didn’t look like a threat - designer dress, thin, pretty, petite... so just who was she?
So long as she stayed in cryo, she didn’t really concern Riddick either, although he couldn’t help but wonder what interest she held for a bunch of bounty hunters.
“Welcome to Tangiers Penal Colony, CC 46075-7. You have clearance.” the comm. unit suddenly crackled. “We are ready and willing to take possession. Please approach using vector heading transmitting now. We will have a welcoming committee waiting at the dock. DO double check your restraint system and DO contact us with verbal confirmation using this code...” a text code message flashed across the flat screen, “before exiting the craft or you may find the welcome a little hot. Your cargo is earning a reputation and we are not taking any chances.”
“CC 46075-7. Instructions received and will comply,” Jenner responded grandly. He released the switch and whooped victoriously. His crew of fellow mercenary bounty hunters cheered and began to chatter about the impending payoff as the pilot set in the coordinates and they broke orbit.
The ride grew rough and the internal temp began to climb as they hit the atmosphere. The air resistance superheated the fuselage sending a wash of yellow and orange up and around the windows, but it was all expected. It was all routine…
...until a red light started flashing on the console. Riddick, of all people, saw it first and began to struggle against his restraints with new purpose. It wasn’t long before more flashing lights and then alarms joined the first. Soon Jenner’s crew was a mass of confusion and the pilot made a fateful announcement. They were going down.
As the alarms sounded Riddick took advantage of the commotion and heaved violently against his restraints. On the third try he felt a shift in one arm. It held, but he had some slack, and that was a start. It was quickly becoming evident that the pilot didn’t know what to do. He threw himself forward, his head connecting with the curved Implastic window over the top half of his cryotube.
His desperation gave him strength and the spot rivets fusing the window to the frame began to pop. He rammed it again, and the window crashed to the floor adding yet another light to the confusion. “VERA!” he roared calling the pilot by name. He’d learned all their names. You never knew when a little piece if information like that might come in handy. “VERA!” he roared again. His voice was raised to be heard amid the panic, but the tone was deadly calm and it cut through the fear like a shiv. He saw her react, turning to hear without taking her eyes off the displays. “Listen to me,” he shouted. “Purge the environmental coolant into the undercarriage.”
That got her attention. “WHAT?” she turned to face the voice. “We’ll roast like turkeys…” Her protest died as she found the source. “YOU! What are you doing awake!?!”
“Tryin’ to save my butt,” Riddick snarled. “You ever tried to bring a ship down with cracked shielding?” He could see by her expression that she hadn’t. “I have! PURGE THE COOLANT NOW!”
There was a quarter second more as Vera decided if the cargo had the authority and experience to give her orders, then her hands were flying over the console. In that moment she earned as much respect as Riddick was ever likely to grant another merc, for when she made the decision that her prisoner knew more than she, she turned off her logic functions and simply obeyed despite Jenner’s protests.
Riddick continued to bark orders to the constantly changing situation and she reacted as if she were an extension of his hands. If the split seconds between orders and compliance narrowed their odds, her complete obedience bought them a chance. It wasn’t until they were in clear space over trees that Riddick fell silent. She could handle the rest, what little there was. They’d done what they could. Vera called out the altitude as they dropped, more stone than glider, and at 1000 meters she screamed, “BRACE YOURSELVES!” as she spun her seat to put it and her back to the imminently shattering windshield.
Her eyes locked briefly with Riddick’s, and he grinned. “Good knowing you, Vera!” Then he ducked down in his cryotube as far as his restraints would allow.