Word count: approx. 15000 words (in two parts)
Pairing: Junba, OT5-friendship
Genre: Space AU, Sci-fi, Action/Adventure
Rating: PG13 (pretty much harmless with a bit of actions, a certain level of violence and a little swearing)
Summary: Matsumoto Jun set out to hunt down slavers but he found his old roommate, Aiba Masaki, and his crew instead.
Author’s Note: Originally written for aibaexchange this version was edited and modified slightly from the original version. The story was based very loosely on Star Trek and Mass Effects AUs (with lots of stress on “very”). Basically, I borrowed the terminology without applying the same meanings in this story. For that, I have to apologize in advance if you are a serious Star Trek fan.
I also would like to thank Mod J. for the help with beta-reading. Thanks for your hard work and patience <3 Also, thank you other awesome AibaEx mods for organizing this exchange. It has been really fun. XOXO
Also, see the end for final note.
[Jun stood next to the large screen panel overlooking the deep space.]
Jun stood next to the large screen panel overlooking the deep space. It had been a few days since they escaped from the research station. Jun’s right side was still stiff from the mostly healed wound. Regardless of how advance the medical treatments had been, effects from injuries often lasted for some time. Jun let out a deep sigh, thinking back to what happened in the past few days. The visit on Plagia turned out to be a lot more dangerous than he had thought. If it was just him alone, he probably would not have made it. Jun tensed up when considering the outcome of that day. It turned out that both he and Aiba had been wounded. It was Ohno’s expert skills plus the ship’s ample medical supply that nursed them back to full health relatively quickly. The shot on Aiba’s left shoulder was pretty bad. Even with the medical care they had on Arashia, it would still leave a sizable scar on a large part of his left shoulder. Aiba looked relatively cheery at it though. He called it his “battle scar”, and seemed to be showing them proudly to Nino, who was clearly NOT happy about it. Nino hit Aiba’s head pretty hard a few times, reprimanding him on his carelessness. Aiba did not tell anyone how exactly he got the injury and Sho did not seem to witness the actual incident. So it’s only Aiba and Jun that knew what truly happened. Jun felt relieved knowing that.
A knock on the door had Jun instantly turned toward the entrance of his guest room. Were people still knocking at this age? Then, Jun remembered, the only person he ever knew that did not use the intercom to ask for permission to enter someone’s room at this time and age.
“C’mon in, Aiba.” Jun yelled out casually but did not turn back. His eyes were still fixed on the beautiful dark space. His heart beat a little faster but Jun tried to look calm and indifferent.
“Hey, Jun.” It was Aiba’s voice greeting him. Jun could hear Aiba’s steps walking across the room toward him. Jun took a deep breath before turning back toward the man. Aiba was beaming a bright, sunshine smile at him. Caught off guard, Jun lost himself for a second. He had to clear his throat before answering back.
“Hello, Aiba.” Jun smiled politely. “What can I do you for?”
“I stop by to see how you are doing. You did not show up for dinner yesterday and also breakfast today. I am worried.” Aiba said it so sincerely. One of the things Jun hated about the man.
“I am okay. I am feeling better, actually, if you are worried about my health.”
In fact, Aiba had a right to be worried. Jun was hit by an armor-piercing ammo, right on the right side of his stomach. The bullet went through his armor, tore through his abs muscle before exploding on the inside. It caused significant internal damage and bleeding but very little bleeding on the outside. That’s why neither Jun nor Sho realized it at first. And it seemed Jun was too preoccupied with what happened to Aiba to notice his own injury. When Ohno and Sho helped both Aiba and Jun back on Arashia, the Med Bay surgical bot had to operate on Jun for several hours before it could get all of the bullet pieces out. Jun’s intensive treatment was one of the reasons why Aiba would have a scar on his shoulder. Aiba would not let the only surgical bot on board Arashia work on him. He insisted that it must put all attention on Jun. Aiba survived his flesh-eating, acid-burning injury by the pure skill of Ohno – who amazed the rest of Arashia crew with his medical knowledge. Ohno quickly stopped the acid spreading and expertly treated the acid burnt wound before it had gotten worse. “You can do this AND you can fly a spaceship too?!? I seriously want to know what else you can do.” Nino asked mischievously amid awkward reactions from the others.
“I am glad you are feeling better, Jun. If there’s anything we can help you with, let us know, okay?” Aiba said firmly and Jun nodded at that. Seeing Aiba remained still, Jun tilted his head to signal the end of their conversation. But Aiba still did not move from where he was. Aiba was just standing there looking unsure. There was something Aiba wanted to say. He just did not know how to put it into words. In front of Aiba, Jun was holding his breath, hoping that Aiba wouldn’t say anything he did not want to hear.
“Umm…and also...” Aiba started. He was trying to summon his courage to say what was on his mind. Jun could not move even though he wished he could just walk away at that point.
“…also, thanks for saving my life.” There, Aiba just said what Jun certainly did not want to hear.
Jun shifted on his feet uncomfortably. He avoided Aiba’s intense stare that was fixating on Jun at the moment. Jun’s physical expression indicated quite clearly he was uncomfortable. That did not stop Aiba from continuing on with his awkward speech though.
“You risked your life to save me. I will never forget that.” Aiba said firmly. He made it sound so much like a promise. A promise was another thing Jun hated to hear.
Jun’s eyes subconsciously glanced at Aiba’s left shoulder where Jun still could see a patch of bandage on Aiba’s pale skin underneath his casual costume. The wound unsettled Jun. It reminded him of what had just happened and it reminded him of the past ten years. Before he could stop himself, Jun blurted out his first thought.
“You did the same for me. I will not forget that too.” There, he just said something resembled a promise. Jun bit his lip thinking what a mistake he had just said out loud. He did not want to give Aiba the wrong idea. Jun did not want them to discuss about what happened at the research station, ever. It was too awkward for Jun. But for Aiba, what happened at the station was like an epiphany. It told Aiba something he had been questioning for so long – so long that he had once given up on finding the answer. Now, Aiba felt he had gotten what he had been asking for these past years. Aiba’s eyes shined brightly. Aiba looked straight at Jun and Jun felt his heart beat a little faster. Then, Aiba moved closer and pulled Jun in for a hug. It looked like a warm and friendly hug but it meant something different for each of them. Jun felt like a flood of emotions hit him and he almost could not breathe. His body just did not know how he should react.
“You know I would risk everything for you, Jun. Always." Aiba pulled Jun in a little tighter but was careful not to disturb Jun’s wound. "I just never know you would do the same for me.” Jun’s whole body tensed up. Not knowing what to say, Jun remained silent.
While staring into the serene view of the vast space, Jun let Aiba hug him a little longer than he should have.
Back in his room, Aiba was sitting on his bed while staring at a photo frame in his hand. The photo had been on his desk since he moved in. It was among several photos portraying his life up to this point. This particular one was dated more than ten years back, when he and Jun were still in the second year of their training. Aiba’s arm wrapped around Jun’s shoulder. The young Aiba looked really happy. He was beaming radiantly while Jun looked slightly more reserved. Jun was smiling just a little but his eyes were glittering brightly. Aiba knew Jun was also happy back then. The picture was taken only a few weeks before Jun's parents passed away. It was then that things went downhill in their romantic relationship, when Jun decided that they were better off friends. Aiba remembered fighting so hard for them to remain the same. However, by the third year when Jun brought the issue of Nino cheating in the exam to the Academy committee, Aiba knew things could never be the same between them. Still, Aiba tried to keep in touch but Jun seemed to think it’s a bother. Aiba had thought he had lost Jun forever until they went to the research station.
There was a sound from the intercom at the door, asking permission to enter. It was Sho. Aiba put the photo frame back on his desk and asked the ship A.I. to let Sho in. He nodded a little to acknowledge Sho's presence.
"Hey, Aiba." Sho looked tired and troubled. It was not unusual for his first officer to look tired. But having a tired and troubled Sho in his quarter was extremely uncommon. Aiba responded with a brief, encouraging smile. He was certain what had happened in the last few days must put a strain on Sho, both mentally and physically. Aiba did not say anything though. With Sho, it was usually better to let Sho speak out what was on his mind first before asking anything specific.
“I want to talk to you.” Sho paused a bit, “You know, about the thing we are doing, about what we did.” Sho let out a heavy sigh. “I am worried. We should not be doing this.” Aiba could see clearly Sho’s serious and somber feelings. They were so apparent on his facial expression. Sho moved to sit in Aiba’s chair while Aiba sat down on his bed. Sho looked straight at Aiba, hoping to convey his message.
“I know you are worried about the colonists and about Jun. But we are too small a crew to be tackling the problem of this scale. We really should wait for the reinforcement.”
Sho’s concern was valid, Aiba understood that. Like Sho, Aiba also knew dealing with slavers was a completely different matter from catching new species or dealing with illegal merchants. These people were fully armed and more often well trained, with proper combat skills. In short, they were deadly. It would be a dangerous affair for everyone, Aiba understood that. He admitted he wasn’t sure if he was willing to put Sho’s and Nino’s lives in danger. Aiba was staring at Sho’s concern expression for a brief moment before he finally realized what Sho was actually worried about. Aiba’s eyes were wide open.
“Oh, you are worried about me, aren’t you, Sho?” Aiba finally got it. Instantly, he felt grateful. Sho had to turn away from Aiba’s direct stare. It embarrassed him.
“You know, with Matsumoto, I am afraid you are not thinking clearly.” Aiba could see Sho switched his gaze toward the desk – where the picture of he and Jun was. Aiba almost forgot that Sho had seen Jun before this mission, in one of his photos. Aiba just wasn’t sure whether Sho had talked to Nino or whether Nino had hinted anything to Sho.
“Aiba, can you wait until the reinforcement arrives? It would be safer for everyone.”
Aiba understood Sho’s concern but he did not know what he could do differently. Sho was always the voice of reason, Aiba hated going against what was best for everyone.
“Jun wouldn’t wait. He said he would go after them himself if we won’t join him. He was also given the direct order to follow up on this right away. I don’t think he could wait for the reinforcement.”
“So, can YOU wait for the reinforcement?” Sho stressed out. Aiba felt bad but he shook his head.
“I can’t. I won’t.” Aiba did not want to look at Sho’s eyes as he continued. “But I will understand if you want to do something different.”
There was a long pause before Sho let out a heavy sign.
“That was insulting, Aiba. Don’t you ever say that in front of Nino. He might kill you himself for belittling his friendship.” Sho stood up, prompting Aiba to follow suit. His soft smile plastered on his face. It was calm and reassuring.
“I guess that settles things then. You should rest. There are going to be a lot of work ahead of us.” Sho bowed slightly and left, leaving Aiba to stand next to his bed, feeling overwhelm. Aiba could never understand what he had done to deserve Nino and Sho.
The visit to the Research station did not turn up completely empty. In the last minute before the self-defense mechanism activated, Jun managed to download some important data from deep inside the mainframe of the station network. Nino could also hack into some information before he was blocked out. Nino had spent the last few days decoding and processing the information. Countless hours were spent sifting through millions of data codes, information and messages down in the engineering bay. Until, finally, Nino found something.
“I found where the slaver operation base is, but you are not going to like it." Nino opened their emergency meeting with a grim face. It had been exactly a week after the visit to the Research station. "I certainly don't like what I found." Nino’s eyes moved from Sho to Aiba then back to the screen of his portable comp pad. Nino typed in several commands to release a 3D hologram of a spaceship. A strangely looking medium-size space ship. "That's where their operation base is. It's on a traveling spaceship."
"Is that why no one was able to locate it? Because it's never at one place?" Aiba asked.
"Not only that. This one is a full scale combat-ready space cruiser equipped with highly advanced defense and stealth system. It could travel at a speed faster than light because of the FTL Drive, without a trace of energy particles left for tracking. Basically it's one invisible fortress." Nino sounded slightly impressed with the information. He totally forgot that not all of them understood what he meant but Nino probably did not care. He always liked good tech, regardless of whom it belonged to. "The way they operate is like this. They would find a target colony. An armed squared will be sent out for the abduction and the colonists would be transported by the main ship to the black markets. Sometimes, like the case in Plagia, they would use an abandon base for temporary hosting of the larger group of abductees. That's why we can access some information of them at the base – the Research station was temporarily connected with the slave ship. Anyway, they hardly ever use the same place twice and they often wipe the whole place clean after they are done. I think Plagia was meant to be a trap for Commander Matsumoto. They left enough breadcrumb to lure him in. He just happened not to go there alone." Nino sounded unmistakably disappointed and Aiba had to cough in order to bring Nino back to the point.
"Oh, right. One piece of good news, if you would call it good news, is that we know where it is right now." Nino could see Jun's eyes gleaming suddenly. Of course, it would be good news for Jun. Nino on the other hand hated the idea of going after a ship with this kind of technological and military capacity.
"We have to go after it now, before it travels too far away to be tracked down. This may be the only chance to take these slavers." Jun rose up when he said it out excitedly. His reaction wasn’t greeted with the same enthusiasm.
“Now we know where the abducted colonists are. We can let the Federation know. They will send the rescue squad. Our work here is done.” Sho said in a rather desperate tone. Although he had talked to Aiba and knew of his intentions, Sho still wished there was still a chance to change his mind. Sho considered what happened at the Research station a disaster and he did not want it repeated. He was worried, especially for Aiba. However, Sho could see it in Jun’s eyes, he wasn’t listening to Sho’s reasons. Jun had other ideas. That meant Aiba would also have that other idea.
“No, that would be too late. The slavers would just move away and escape by then. I am going after them.” Jun argued firmly. His eyes gleamed in determination. Everyone knew Jun meant what he said. If they weren’t in it with him, he would do it alone. Jun’s reaction was enough to make Aiba decide one way instead of another.
“Jun is right. If we wait, the colonists may be moved to another base. We would lose the only chance to help them.” Aiba sounded as determined as Jun – although for a different reason. The flash in Aiba’s big, round eyes worried Sho more than anything. Although the strong determination was what he loved about Aiba, Sho feared it would be his undoing this time.
“You two please be reasonable. There are only us. Arashia is not combat-ready, you know that, Commander Matsumoto. We cannot go all out against a fully equipped slaver ship. And all those slavers, how many of them are they on the ship? This is suicidal.” Sho was quite livid. Surely someone must still hear his reason.
“That’s why we need a plan. We are not going after the slave ship and crash it head on.” Aiba was quick to reply with a mischievous smile. And Sho could only let out a troubled breath.
They spent the whole day discussing the best strategy.
Aiba commented that their priority should be the abducted colonists on the ship. They should help them out first and think about getting the slavers later. Jun did not look too pleased with the idea. Helping colonists was a one-time solution, in Jun's opinion. Getting rid of the slavers, that was a long term solution.
So, Sho came up with the compromise. Sho proposed that they split up into two teams - one would target the database of the slavers. Given the Arashia's current occupants number, it would be impossible to apprehend the slavers. The whole ship probably hosted close to fifty, if not more, not including other operational crews. So it would be better to get to their database and to find out as much as possible about their operations and their network, including people behind them. They would need someone to access the information of the ship, which could only be done from the inside. The hacking into the ship’s advance system sounded like a job for Nino and his uncanny skills. Nino would also release virus and tracking code that would disable some of the ship advance stealth system, allowing for easier tracking in the future. Sho would act as Nino’s bodyguard and make sure that Nino get the job done safely. Meanwhile, Aiba and Jun would go look for the abducted colonists and try to get them out. And since docking Arashia to the slave ship undetected required far more delicate control of the spacecraft than Nino’s automate piloting system could offer, Ohno would be taking care of piloting Arashia the whole time. While everyone was on their respective assignments, Ohno would be responsible for Arashia and be ready to offer any assistance if needed.
“So, here's how we are going to do it. We are going to dock our ship with the slaver main ship. From the information Nino could get, it seemed there would be several empty hangers. Arashia will go in her stealth mode and the team will get inside the slave ship from there.” Sho explained his plan. “I am going to accompany Nino, keeping him safe. Nino, you try to find a secure terminal to get the info. The information would be transmitted to the Federation ComLink right away using Arashia as a relay.” What Sho was implying was pretty obvious to everyone. He wanted the information to be sent to the Federation immediately in case something bad happened to them. Their effort wouldn’t be in vain.
“Let’s look for information on the possible future targets, the black market locations, the operators, buyers and sellers, and any creditors. It should cripple the slaver operation.” Sho suggested. It got approving nods from both Aiba and Jun.
“At the same time, Aiba and Jun would search the ship for any abductees and rescue them. Arashia should be able to transport them to the closest Federation base for further help.” Personally, Sho thought this part of the operation was riskier – possibly too risky. But it was something Aiba believed was important. Jun seemed to want to meet with slavers. Sho guessed by going after the abductees, both Aiba and Jun would probably get their wishes.
The operation happened that night. Ohno piloted Arashia into the vicinity of the slave cruiser. Nino’s super stealth system worked like a charm and there seemed to be no sign of the larger ship knowing that they were there. The docking was done perfectly. There was no one in the hangar, like Nino expected. From there, the party split into two groups. Nino thought the best location to get access to the ship main computer might be in the engine bay because there would be just engineers and workers manning the area - with the ship’s highly automated technology, there would not be many people there. They just needed to be careful of the security drones. As soon as Nino was done, Nino and Sho would return to Arashia and wait for further instructions.
After seeing Nino and Sho set off to the engine core, Aiba and Jun followed through their part of the plan. Nino had given them the layout of the cruiser, courtesy of the information they obtained from Plagia. So, Aiba and Jun knew where to go. Before the docking, they had speculated the location of the slave holding cells and planned out the route beforehand. From the hangar, it did not take them long before they could reach the slave holding. There were just a few patrols along the way and they were easily disposed of. Aiba and Jun should have thought the lack of security was strange but then they believed the slavers did not realize someone had found out about their base. These were slavers, not military, after all.
As Aiba and Jun made their way to the holding cells and released the abducted colonists, they thought their work was almost done. The layout of the ship was surprisingly straightforward so there should not be much resistance on the way out. There were only tens of colonists in the holding cells. Aiba led the escaped party out on the same way they entered while Jun guarded the rear, helping the abductees keep on track. Everything looked so smooth until Jun was about to usher the last of the frightened colonists out. There was a loud bang and the last security door closed down right in front of them. Jun and a few colonists were cut off from the large group that Aiba led. Jun instinctively turned back and right there in the room, a sizable group of slavers were spreading out. Each one of them held weapons of various kinds. Before Jun could decide how to react to the surprise, shots flew left and right of him and the colonists around Jun dropped down like fallen leaves. Within seconds, only Jun was left standing in the room full of slavers.
On the outside, Aiba ran back toward the door in panic. Jun was still inside, with several colonists. Aiba’s intercom still linked with Jun so Aiba could hear gun shots that almost caused him a heart attack. Aiba wanted to cry out knowing that those colonists that did not make it out were shot dead inside. But he could not lose his nerve now. He had to focus. Aiba turned back to his original course and continued to move forward, leading the rest of the colonists toward Arashia. At the same time, he quickly switched the channel on his intercom to someone he knew he could always rely on.
“Sho, I need your help.” Aiba tried to sound calm. He did not want Sho to know how frightened he was. Sho was quick to answer him. His first officer was already back on the ship waiting for contact from Aiba. “I need you to help escort the colonists. They are on their way to our ship. I am sending you the route on the com now. Jun and I have cleared the path so they should be quite safe. But I want to make sure.” Aiba felt his own voice was so full of urgency. His speech was so quick the sentences almost slurred into one. Sho certainly would know be alarmed.
“What are you doing? Why don’t you and Commander Matsumoto return now?” Sho was indeed suspicious. “Is there something wrong?” Aiba was torn between letting Sho know in order to ask him to help Jun and having Sho taking care of the colonists. Aiba weighted the risk and his own priority. The safety of the colonists should come first.
“I don’t have time to explain, Sho. Just do as I say, okay?” And with that, Aiba ended the communication. He knew Sho must already be on the way. Sho was a good officer after all. He would make sure that his assignment was completed.
Being certain that Sho was coming, Aiba directed the colonists on the right path before he alone ran back toward the holding cells. Aiba’s intercom was now switched back to his original channel with Jun. Unfamiliar voices were ringing in his ears.
“Well, well, well…. Look who we have here.” That came from a slaver, Aiba guessed he was one of the leaders. The voice was rather authoritative. “I cannot believe we finally have a Specter in our slave hold.” The man said amusingly but that voice sent shiver down Aiba’s neck. There was no question what the slavers had in mind. Aiba knew he had to find a way to help Jun quickly. He frantically searched for other entrance to the holding cells through the ship information when the voice in his intercom continued. “Ah! And don’t think about doing anything funny with that gun of yours. My snipers would be faster than your trigger.” Aiba’s heart dropped for a second. Snipers meant less chance of survival and more difficult rescue. However, it also meant there could be other entrances on the upper floor. Aiba searched the blueprint and there it was, another way into the slave holding via upper floor.
Aiba moved as quickly as he could. His pistol was now in his hand. The slaver’s voice in his earpiece continued “What I see here, Specter, is that you are out-numbered. Don’t make it more difficult for you than it already is.” Aiba was now right at the door of the upper floor entrance. He slowly opened the door. And there it was one of the snipers lying flat on his stomach, in ready position. Aiba took care of him with the sound-muffled shot. The other slavers did not seem to notice. Now he could see that Jun was standing alone on one side of the room while a significant number of slavers were position on the opposite side. Jun was luckily close to the door. But the red light clearly indicated that the door was locked by the key pad. Jun looked calm but his posture was visibly tensed. The leader of the group looked at him sternly and continued.
“Normally a soldier or a fighter would fetch quite a higher price than a worker slave. They usually prove to be very loyal guards after some behavioral corrections. But in your case, I think we are going to kill you – just to be safe. You have been after us for too long already. Our boss does not like it.” The lead slaver said in an irritated tone. “We have been trying to get rid of you several times already. But you escaped every time. Even the last time on Plagia, I thought our plan was rather clever.” The slaver sounded disappointed. Aiba was in the sniper position now. He looked at all the enemies, thinking about the most strategic way to rescue Jun.
On the floor below, the leader of the group readied his gun, aiming it at Jun, who was standing quietly where he was. Jun did not raise his weapon up. Aiba knew whom he had to shot first.
As Jun closed his eyes, Aiba pressed the trigger.
A gun shot echoed in the room and Jun felt lighter. Jun wondered whether this was what it felt like when a person was shot dead. He heard a thudding sound and opened his eyes, in time to see the slaver dropped dead on the floor.
Aiba shouted at Jun loudly while releasing more shots on other slavers. Jun glanced up, quickly processing what had just happened. Aiba took out the other snipper and began targeting the slavers on the floor. Taking advantage of the surprise, Jun crouched down and rolled to one side while shooting at several slavers standing confused around the room. A couple slavers who could not react in time and dropped dead by Jun’s shots, while some were able to run for the cover.
With the slavers unprepared and scattered, Aiba and Jun tried to control the situation. Using the dead slaver rifle, Aiba picked out slavers hiding behind covers quite easily. Aiba’s position was higher up and it would be hard for the slavers to target him. But then, Aiba posed a more serious threat to slavers than Jun. So the slavers seemed to be concentrating on subduing Aiba’s firing. Several slavers aimed at Aiba from their covers. It’s not effective but it did help stopping Aiba from shooting. Jun was gauging what to do when he heard Aiba shouting out to him. “Get out, Jun! Quick!” Then, Jun realized Aiba had shot the control panel locking the security door. It could be open now. Jun knew it was his only way out.
The slavers also heard Aiba’s words. Some turned to shoot at Jun, preventing him from escaping. But Aiba risked firing a few shots at them, stopping them from interfering with Jun’s escape.
“Jun, please. Just go.” Aiba was desperate. If Jun did not leave now, there might not be another chance. Aiba had only limited number of shots left and he wanted to make sure Jun got out before Aiba himself ran out of ammo. But Aiba knew Jun did not move because of Aiba. Because Aiba was still stranded on the second floor balcony with pretty much all slavers pointing their weapons at him. Jun saw some slavers was moving in. They brought out a larger gun – bomb thrower – maybe. Aiba was really in danger now. But Aiba did not care. He kept shouting for Jun to go first. If Jun was safe, maybe he could find a way to leave his position and make his way back to Arashia. He just had to survive this hail storm of gun shots from slavers on the floor below, somehow.
At that exact moment, something unexpected and horrible happened. Without any warning, Jun willingly stepped out of his cover and into the open. He put several shots into the slavers who were holding the bomb thrower. He continued to walk straight at another group of slavers behind a wall cover and fired at them at point blank. Jun was completely out in the open, which allowed him a better angle on most enemy. Upon doing that, Jun opened himself up for attacks from all directions. More shots were flying straight at Jun and his body shook slightly when the shots hit. Even from afar, Aiba could see holes and cracks on Jun's heavy armor, results of the slaver fires. To Aiba’s horror, Jun continued to move from one slaver to another, disposing them and getting shot at in return. Aiba was close to losing his mind. He jumped down from the balcony onto some structure that helped break his fall. It still hurt but Aiba wasn’t paying attention. He screamed Jun’s name, yelling at him to stop, but Jun ignored Aiba completely. Jun continued to move toward a few remaining slavers, who were staring at Jun in disbelief, and traded shots with them. The sound of gun fires and his own cries was like Aiba's nightmare.
In just minutes, everything went perfectly quiet. With all slavers laid dead or disposed of, Jun staggered forward almost subconsciously. He struggled to stay upright and was about to fall when Aiba finally made it to Jun. Aiba wrapped his arms around the bullet-ridden man before both of them collapsed on the floor. Before Jun’s conscious fade completely, Jun’s eyes met with Aiba’s and Jun’s lip pursed into a relieved smile. Jun’s weight fell completely on Aiba. Blood started to ooze out of numerous holes on Jun's armor, staining Aiba’s arm and body that were used for supporting the now unconscious Specter. Aiba looked at Jun’s lifeless face in total despair. Aiba had never been so afraid in his life. He cried out repeatedly begging Jun to stay with him.
A Month Later…..
The abducted colonists were now relocated to another human colony in Crescent Nebula. It was quite a distance away from their original home but the colonists seemed to be in good spirits. Sho always wondered about the resilience of these colonists. It was extraordinary.
Not a far distance away, Aiba was surrounded by children, all of whom were trying to get him to play with them. The mothers were looking at him gratefully that he had brought them home. When Aiba saw Sho, he waved at him happily, excused himself and ran toward his first officer.
“I just come to let you know that they have successfully apprehended the slave ship. The virus Nino left in the ship computer made the arrest so much easier. The slavers were all in custody now.” Sho reported the development he had just received via the communication room. Aiba looked pleased with the information.
“That’s good news. They deserved to be punished for what they did.” Aiba’s eyes were gleaming dangerously. Sho could tell there was something personal about that statement. Aiba was still angry at what happened last month. Jun was fatally wounded. He would have died if it’s not for Arashia’s Hyper-FTL Drive that allowed him to reach the main Federation Medical Center just in time. Nino did not want to admit it but it was his own engineering expertise that saved Jun’s life.
“Oh, and I think you may want to know. Ohno also called.” Aiba’s facial expression changed instantly. “Nino talked to him. He said Jun was recovering nicely. It may be a few more months before he could get back on the field again though.” Sho said in a more positive voice. He knew Aiba wanted to know about this news more than the capture of the slave ship. He was right. Aiba could not conceal his relief and happiness at the news. Yet, Aiba tried not to show it too much. Sho understood Aiba must have felt a bit uncertain and insecure. Since he left the hospital, Jun hadn’t been in contact with Aiba or anyone else at Arashia at all. Aiba probably felt left out now that he and Jun fell back into the same pattern of not really communicating again. Most of the news about Jun was coming from Ohno who had been in contact with Nino constantly.
“That’s good to hear. I guess Jun would be going back on the field when he’s fully recovered. He has always been serious about his work.” Aiba tried to make it sound normal but Sho could catch a glimpse of sadness in his voice. Aiba knew when Jun was back at his job, they would drift apart completely again like before. Sho looked at Aiba’s sadden face with sympathy. He let out a sign. He really could not stand seeing Aiba being miserable. So Sho decided to give Aiba another news against his previous resolution not to interfere in Aiba’s personal affair.
“You know, I also talked to my father. He told me Jun was to be given a medal of commendation and a promotion for his work in destroying one of the largest slaver operations. He was to be given a new ship to help with his future operations.”
“Is that right? I am happy for him.” Aiba was smiling but his eyes betrayed him. Sho smiled at Aiba softly before continued, “Jun accepted the medal but he refused the other offer.”
The new information made Aiba stopped on his track. He looked at Sho questioningly. Sho had Aiba’s full attention. “Instead, he has just requested to be instated on Arashia. He has asked the Council to allow him to work with you.” Sho paused a little. He loved seeing Aiba’s face slowly brightened up in recognition of what the news meant. “My father said the Council already said yes. Of course, you would be officially informed and asked about it before Jun can be a member of Arashia. The official communication would probably follow as soon as Jun was well enough to be on the field again.”
By the end of Sho’s sentence, Aiba was on his feet. He was beaming happily and started hopping back toward their ship.
“Hey, where are you going?” Sho shouted, asking the running Aiba, who slow down and turned back to answer Sho’s question.
“I am going to tell Nino. We have to get the ship ready for Jun and Ohno to move in.” Aiba beamed back at Sho. “Oh my god, there are so many things to do.” Aiba cried out excitedly. He waved at number of colonists whom he ran past. They all wondered what went on that could have changed the mood of Arashia’s captain so drastically.
Standing where he was, Sho’s eyes followed after Aiba with a smile. Sho knew he had made the right decision joining the team.
Arashia was going to have five members now and the new adventure was waiting for them.
Author's Note 2:
The original requester for the exchange had asked for a Space-AU and an open-ended story. So, for those of you who feel the story is somewhat not concluded, there are in fact something after this. I am currently writing the next part, which is going to be an Ohmiya story (well, Aiba, Jun and Sho are all still there too, of course). Anyhow, You probably could have guessed while reading this story that there are more to Nino and Ohno. Some of their story should have been in this one but because of the time constraint during the Exchange, I had to cut out quite a bit of Ohmiya. They will be there in the next one, promise. ;)