26. Second Phase


The battle in space raged on around the Pirate's Nebula, while the station slowly turned its massive red eye towards the swarm of black ships looming before it. Eruptions of light flashed in the emptiness as the pirates assaulted the Da-Ku cruisers, keeping them from causing too much damage to the station; its shields were barely holding as it was. The Pirate King Daichi stroked his beard anxiously- he was anticipating the moment when the tension would break. Even his noisy robotic bird, still perched on his shoulder, had stopped its twitching and squawking, as if it too felt the suspense.

"Sir!" an underhand suddenly called to him over the intercom. "The Eye is charged and ready! Request activation immediately!"

"First prepare fer massive impact," Daichi roared over him, his voice deep and commanding. "When that thing fires, it's goin' to drain this station of its energy; the shields are gonna be down, and we gonna be hit hard! After that order's completed, fire immediately!"

The warning went out to everyone within the Pirate's Nebula, projected across screens and intercoms throughout the station; it also went to all the pirate ships in battle. Natsumi glanced towards the station upon hearing they were ready; the giant red circle in the center of the eye-shaped dome flared with energy, crackling and pulsating, eager to be released. She immediately began to pilot her ship away from the fleet, doing her best to find an escape route through the swarm of enemies.

"Everyone fall back!" Natsumi yelled to the remaining pirates. "Don't get caught in the Eye's path!"

The crew of the Kon-Rensa snapped their heads up at hearing this; Tanshin almost leapt out of the bed he lay on in the sick bay, his one good eye wide in fear. Gama didn't rise, but a look of concern tightened his wrinkled green face. Ryu and Kaze, on the bridge of the ship, almost jumped out of their seats.

"They're firing it already?" Ryu shouted in alarm. "Trey's not back yet!"

"Tell them to wait!" Kaze yelled back to Natsumi, as the Kon-Rensa dodged a volley of missiles. The mobile turrets shot down those that got too close, and gave the starship time to fire back; the hail of laser blasts instantly wiped out the fighter planes tailing them. "Give Trey just a little more time!"

"It can't be held back once it's charged!" Natsumi argued. "Tell him to get out and MOVE!" The Calipsis was already rocketing away from the battle to prove her point, dodging anything that came her way; the other ships were also beginning to follow her.

"Shit!" Ryu yelled. "What do we do?"

Kaze's mind spun, trying to think of a way to get Trey off the cruiser. She spun around to the mechanical egg behind them. "Aiya, can you contact Trey?" she asked. "Didn't he say something about you two having a 'connection'?"

"I CAN ATTEMPT TO ESTABLISH A CONNECTION," the android replied. "THERE IS NO CERTAINTY OF SUCCESS." It was then that Aiya tried to reach Trey, calling out to him with an energy surpassing technology. Trey was still in the middle of fighting the Da-Ku Lord; for a brief moment, she was able to reach him. Ryu shouted out desperately, trying to warn him of the situation, but soon Trey's focus was torn away, and Aiya lost the connection. Even though he would have enough time to kill Gokan, Trey wouldn't have enough time to get off the ship before the Eye of the Storm was activated.

Ryu slammed his fist on the control panel before him in frustration. "Come on, Trey! Get outta there!"

At the same time, King Daichi slammed his fist on the table and yelled, "Fire!"

The Pirate's Nebula released the energy it had been gathering- the energy fueled directly by the core of the nebula. The Eye of the Storm- the pirate's greatest defense, which literally turned the station into one giant weapon- unleashed this power in a massive stream of stellar light, flowing chaotically towards the fleet before it. The incredible size of the blast engulfed almost every ship, and the mighty Da-Ku fleet was broken. Smaller ships simply disintegrated, while the bigger cruisers cracked and shattered into fragmented pieces. The stream flowed steadily, as the energy continued to pour out of the station, until it used up everything it had gathered.

The pirates all turned their averted eyes back to the fleet, once the energy had subsided; each had to turn away from the incredible brilliance of the blast. When they looked again, only a cloud of debris and metal pieces drifted before them- the only remnants of the Da-Ku's fleet. Natsumi had seen the Eye of the Storm used once before, but regardless, it still impressed and terrified her. Ryu and Kaze had never witnessed its awesome power; however, any admiration for it was crushed by their despair for their friend. Trey was nowhere in sight.

"Did he make it?" Kaze asked faintly, hoping someone could answer.

Aiya gave a mechanically cold and simple response. "IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SENSE ANY ENERGY AT THIS TIME. SCANNERS ARE TEMPORARILY OVERLOADED BY THE EYE OF THE STORM. OPERATIONS WILL RETURN TO NORMAL MOMENTARILY." Kaze leaned forward, her eyes scanning the wreckage of ships hopefully.

"Is everyone all right?" Natsumi sent out a general question. The pirates answered her with hushed voices; they were all awed by the mass decimation. There was a pause, then Natsumi spoke again. "Kaze? Ryu? Are you okay?"

Kaze continued to scan the ships without answering, so Ryu took the call. "We're still waiting on one… he was in one of the Da-Ku cruisers." There was another pause; Natsumi furrowed her brow in concern, hoping they didn't actually expect their friend to have survived.

"Ryu… " she replied carefully. "What about Gama and Tanshin? They will need our medical assistance; your ship alone can't give them the support they need. You should be more concerned about them… they can still be helped. Trey… I don't think someone could have survived… "

"Shut up!" Kaze interrupted her, still scanning the wreckage of the ships with wild eyes. "He made it! Just wait!" She gripped the control panel tightly, slightly leaning over it. "Come on, Trey… you made it, I know you did… "

Ryu looked over at her sadly, then turned his gaze to the debris. He knew Natsumi was right; nothing could have survived that. He dropped his head and closed his eyes, thinking of the young boy, whom they barely even knew that well. Trey, Ryu thought. You died protecting us… All of us, the entire Pirate's Nebula, are here only because of you… what an amazing child…

"SCANNERS FUCTIONING. ENERGY SOURCE DETECTED, APPROACHING THE KON-RENSA RAPIDLY," Aiya announced casually over the intercom, as if she weren't surprised in the least.

"What? Where?" Kaze peered around frantically, trying to spot the said energy source. A ball of blue light appeared from the black drifting metal, and it rocketed with powerful speed towards the Kon-Rensa.

"SOURCE IDENTIFIED," Aiya continued. "IT IS THE Symbion ALPHA."

Ryu spun around to her, looking confused. "Symbion Alpha? You mean… Trey?"

"THE Symbion AND TREY ARE ONE, REGARDLESS OF THEIR FORM," Aiya responded, sounding like a teacher patiently lecturing her children. "THAT IS THE NATURE OF THE Symbion."

Ryu turned back to the approaching object before them; he could see the white giant's armored body gleaming inside the blue light, his wings outstretched as he soared through space. "Alpha? Things just keep getting weirder and weirder…"



Ryu and Kaze ran down to the docking bay as the Symbion entered, the transparent force shield rippling as he passed through it. The shining creature dropped to the ground heavily, its delicate wings folding to its sides.

"Trey!" Kaze shouted. The Symbion looked up as they ran towards him; he lifted a white armored hand, waving like a casual teen- the act looked ridiculous in the Symbion's body. Then, he suddenly collapsed face-first onto the floor with a thud.

"Trey!" Kaze and Ryu ran over to him, becoming alarmed as blue fire enveloped him again, though it dissipated as quickly as it came. Lying on the floor was now Trey's human body, returned to its normal form. Normal, save the fact that the Symbion Beta still encompassed his right arm, and he still wore the exotic black-and-white swirled robe he acquired from Gama's people. For Ryu and Kaze, however, that was regular, and they wasted no time grabbing their friend and bringing him to sick bay with Gama and Tanshin.

As for Trey, it was as close to normal as he would get, for the time being.



The Da-Ku who had attacked the Pirate's Nebula were completely annihilated, destroyed by the star's fury. Not a single vessel had escaped the fearful retaliation… except one. A single scout ship, its sleek black shape floating far out of harm's way, turned its nose around and headed home, to report these events. The pilot sat in quiet thought, wondering what it was he had seen and felt. Toshiou's eyes were the only visible part of his face, the rest being hidden by his ninja-like mask. The dark slits narrowed in concern; the knot which had been growing in his stomach since Shinkou's death was uncoiling uncomfortably. Something isn't right…

He had seen the destruction caused by the pirates. He had felt the energy exerted by Trey's battle with Gokan; he had seen the Symbion Alpha flying back to its vessel, that powerful starship that had taken out almost a tenth of the fleet on its own. That creature isn't one of the pirate's weapons… certainly an ally, but that thing wasn't like any other life form I've encountered. They don't have the technology to build such a weapon. Toshiou hated to admit it, but there was only one thing he could think of that explained the events. Shinkou… were your theories not so bizarre, after all? Were you actually more aware than the rest of us?

That mad scientist had prophesized the return of the Symbion, feverishly detailing his hypothesis to anyone who had cared to listen. Toshiou, ever calm and stoic, had stood in quiet disinterest as Shinkou had indulged him with his diluted fantasies. Now, Toshiou realized there might be some truth to his words. The information fit too well… the white giant, a well of energy, potential lying untapped. Toshiou knew the immense energy he sensed had not been its limit- not by a long shot. That fluctuating power had much more room to grow. All these words he had heard Shinkou himself use to describe the Symbion's nature, and this slight encounter left him with no other explanation. The Da-Ku Lord involuntarily shivered with uneasiness.

Perhaps The Emperor will not brush this aside so easily, now. This could put a large hole in his plans...



While the Prince of the Da-Ku could not sense the energies battling so precisely as Toshiou- the latter was in the vicinity of the sources, while Enma was across the other side of the galaxy- he still felt the life force of Gokan disappear from existence. He half-knelt on the floor, sweating and breathing furiously. He leaned against his black wooden katana for support, gripping the hilt tightly. Enma and Gokan, two of the youngest Da-Ku, had been friends for decades of their long lives; their energies had become sensitively attuned to one another. Just as Datsueba had felt her husband's demise, the Prince was aware of the very moment his friend ceased to be. The sudden revelation shook him to the very core of his tumultuous emotions.

Even as he struggled to accept the cold truth, another thing disturbed him; this made four Da-Ku Lords now murdered, all by the same person. Shinkou, Shokou… now Soutei and Gokan. Enma's grip on his katana tightened violently. Do their lives mean anything to you, father!

The Prince stormed out of his room, determined to hear the answer from the Emperor himself.

Gotoutenrin was in his throne room, as always. He stood above his Empress as they inspected her dark loom before her. As they had expected, the patterns of fate had changed once again. Gokan and Soutei were supposed to keep living, they should have crushed those who opposed them, but both of their strands had snapped. Those who were supposed to die- the crew of the Kon-Rensa- had survived once again. Shishei was trying to determine what could have caused such a phenomenon, when Enma burst into the room.

"He's dead, father?" he barked at the Emperor. "Gokan is dead!"

Gotoutenrin never turned to Enma; he kept his eyes on the dark loom, disinterested. "Yes, it appears he is. Quite an unfortunate event…"

"You knew this was dangerous!" Enma yelled. "Those pirates killed Shokou, and you didn't bother to send enough reinforcements to handle them! You knew they were going to die!"
"I sent them with more than enough forces," the Emperor responded absent-mindedly. "If they failed in their mission it was their own fault; they deserved their deaths. Weakness is not tolerable in the Dynasty." Enma's eyes darkened in hatred. Father… you monster…

"What is more important is this disruption in Shishei's weave." Gotoutenrin still had eyes only for the loom before him. Shishei, however, was trying desperately to catch Enma's eye, her porcelain features pleading and sympathetic. "It has always predicted the flow of time unerringly, up until now. Not only are these enemies successfully standing against the Dynasty… they are standing against fate itself." The Emperor raised a thin, white finger to his beard, stroking it curiously. "Or perhaps it is not they… "

"Are you not concerned at all?" Enma pressed, his voice straining to hold back the rage he felt. "Are you not ashamed at letting a group of pirates best us, not once, not twice, but three times? You don't care about your subjects anymore; you don't care about our pride! All you care about is your wife's fucking weaving!"

Shishei gasped at Enma, her face twisted in hurt and despair. "Enma! Don't speak like that, I'm your mother!" Enma never turned from Gotoutenrin, his eyes burning with hate. The Emperor never turned from the loom; he was as emotionless as a statue.

"Enma… how many times must I teach you?" Gotoutenrin spoke quietly, and deadly. "How many times must I tame this wild streak in you, your glaring imperfection… like that disgusting streak in your hair?" Finally, Gotoutenrin turned towards his son, eyeing the white mark as he spoke of it. Enma winced, uncomfortably aware of his defects- white hair, and white eyes with black pupils. All Da-Ku had black hair, and pure black eyes. Such deformations in the Dynasty were loathed… especially in a young prince. It was only one of the many things that made Enma hate his position.

"Those who died by the hands of the pirates… they did not know strength." Gotoutenrin continued in his ice-cold drone. "This is not strength… this show of disgusting emotions you are displaying. You do not gain power from caring about friends, then despairing once they die. You do not gain any strength from caring about others. You grow weak, Enma, and you let others take advantage of that weakness. Soutei and Gokan were too emotional about Shokou's death. They let it get the better of them… and now they are dead. Weakness has been cleansed from our great Dynasty; you should consider it a favor, what those pirates did to them."

"HOW DARE YOU!" Enma screamed, pointing the tip of his katana towards his father threateningly.

"You also show your weakness in this hatred for me," Gotoutenrin continued; Enma curled back, not expecting him to strike from that angle. "I know you hate me; you hate me, because you fear me. You hate me because I am strong, and you are weak. You are the Prince of the Da-Ku, Enma! You cannot be weak!" The Emperor's energy suddenly flared; his aura became a churning shadow, almost drowning out his physical body, though his eyes shone red through the darkness. The Prince visibly shrunk back as the darkness seethed around The Emperor in shadowy tendrils. Enma gritted his teeth, raising his wooden katana against the energy pressing against him. He righted himself, forcing his body to keep steadfast against the surge of power.

"I'll show you… " he growled between clenched teeth. "I'll show you how weak I am!" With a mighty heave, he pushed off the ground and flew towards the Emperor. Shishei screamed in terror as the wooden katana crashed into Gotoutenrin's skull; Enma thought he had connected, but realized with a start that his father had stopped the blade a mere centimeter from his face. Suddenly, the Prince was forced to his knees, and pain wracked his entire body. He gasped and shuddered, unable to get enough air to even scream, as his body contorted and twisted. The Emperor stared down at him, his eyes crinkled in deranged amusement. The shadowy tendrils wrapped around his son, constricting bones and muscle.

Something caught the Emperor's eye, and he glanced up from the writhing Prince towards the doorway. Standing there was Toshiou, patiently waiting for the father-son battle to finish. Gotoutenrin casually released Enma, returning to his calm and emotionless state as the shadows flittered away.

"Welcome back, Toshiou," he spoke, collected. "I trust your mission went well?"

Toshiou nodded, sparing the Prince only a fleeting glance. "Yes, my Lord. I witnessed the entire battle, and was able to learn much about the enemy. I'm sure that this information will help solve our mystery." Enma tried to stand, though he failed miserably and collapsed to the ground. Empress Shishei rushed over, draping herself across his body and whispering in comforting sorrow to him. He struggled to get back up again; Toshiou noted cynically that his mother's show of affection only fueled the Prince's desire to escape.

Enma eventually got to his feet, though he could barely stand, and was forced to let Shishei to grip his waist in a tight hug; Toshiou had never seen her move from her small cot, seated directly in front of her loom, since she had arrived in the palace. She returned to the bed now, protectively hugging her son and keeping him from collapsing.

"Toshiou," The Emperor snapped the Da-Ku out of his thoughts, "Give me your report."

Toshiou snapped back to attention. "Yes, my Lord. I believe this is a much bigger matter than we perceived. During the battle, I witnessed something that stood out from everything else, a thing I couldn't believe was capable of existing. I have no doubt that it must be the key factor in the sudden shift of power. My Lord… did you ever hear Shinkou speak of his research?"

"No, I never granted him enough time to talk about such nonsense."

"As is expected; we all thought he had lost his sanity. Now, however… I'm forced to reconsider."

Gotoutenrin's eyes narrowed. "What are you getting at, Toshiou?"

"This sounds ridiculous, but please, consider what we've witnessed. Shishei's power is failing her, and Da-Ku Lords are being vanquished. Both times there was a massive spike in energy, from some unidentifiable source, and this time I saw what that source was. All that power was coming from some alien being, a white armored creature with wings, and the most bizarre energy I have ever sensed." Toshiou turned towards Enma, his eyes slightly apologetic. "My Prince, I am sorry for asking you to speak in such a state, but could you confirm that Gokan spoke of a boy, with a white glove on his hand? He was the one who killed Shokou, was he not?"

Enma, still shaking uncontrollably, managed to nod his head ever so slightly.

Toshiou turned back to the Emperor. "That boy was the one figure we weren't counting on. He killed Shokou, and he was able to kill Gokan as well. Empress, you said there should be only four targets, correct? Four strands that were supposed to die long ago?"

Shishei nodded, still pressed against her son. "Yes, that's what the weave shows."

"Then it is only fair to assume that boy is the anomaly causing our problems. What Shinkou had researched and rambled on about was the return of the Symbion, a hypothetical being that survives off of other life forms. I do not recall specifically all the things he mentioned, but I know that this creature definitely reminds me of it. Shinkou said the being would evolve, expand its energy and mutate, to compensate for any battle or situation. He believed in the myths, referring to some giant, white, winged demon; it descended from the sky and wielded enough power to crush the planets themselves. Like I said, such ridiculous stories were never taken seriously, but… I do not know how else to explain what I saw. This creature, whatever it is… its power is wild, and it has even more room to grow. I do not know for sure that this is the mythical Symbion, but… it is the only explanation that can come close to describing what I witnessed."

The Emperor stared at Toshiou, his face blank; it was impossible to tell what he thought. Toshiou started to wonder if he'd made a mistake, speaking so honestly about such nonsense to the Emperor. Finally, Gotoutenrin turned around, and calmly returned to his throne.

"Thank you, Toshiou. I will consider this information and deal with it in the future."

Toshiou bowed respectfully, grudgingly accepting it as the end of their conversation; he supposed he should have expected such a detached attitude from the Emperor. He turned to leave, but suddenly Prince Enma spoke up again.

"Father… you truly do not care about anything, anymore. You are faced with a serious threat to the Da-Ku… and you choose to ignore it, put it off for another time? What kind of leadership is that? Where's the strength in that?"

The Emperor took a seat on his throne, folding his hands together and saying nothing. Enma stared at him for a long time, then shook himself free of his clinging mother and stormed out of the room. Toshiou stepped aside for him, then bowed again before making his own departure. Shishei looked up at her Emperor; he was staring at the floor, deep in thought. She could do nothing else but curl up into a miserable ball on her bed.

Gotoutenrin silently mused over these events; though he showed no emotion, he was deeply interested in what was happening. The Symbion? The power to destroy planets? Perhaps I will find a worthy adversary after all. I am sick of these petty games… the rebellious pirates, the bullheaded Uniti Solari… even my own kind have begun to turn on me. They turn on me… because they all fear me. A smile grew beneath his smooth black beard. They have not even begun to experience true fear. A threat to the Dynasty you say, Enma? Once my plans are underway, no threat will be great enough. I will rule the universe, and the Da-Ku will finally know what true power is.

Still, the Symbion proved to be a new factor in the game; Gotoutenrin felt a slight curiosity to see how it might change things. Perhaps I'll have to actually expend some effort, now. How… invigorating.



In that moment, Trey was the happiest he had ever been. He was back among the stars, soaring through galaxies at the speed of light, but yet slow enough to study it all in perfect detail. The planets, meteors, space stations and magnificent works of art- both natural and technological- soared overhead and below him, floating in the vast emptiness of space; the whole time, a wondrous smile lit the boy's eyes.

The universe was such a beautiful thing; now that he could see the bigger picture, it had such a stronger impact on him. He watched the planets and stellar bodies float by in miniature systems, each revolving around a greater source such as the suns. They drew close enough to feel its power, to bask in the sun's warmth, but stayed far enough away to keep from being burned and injured. It was all in perfect harmony; the emptiness, the magnificent void of space keeping track of every single living entity that moved within it, each one contributing to the balance. He saw how each part fit, everything giving and taking, to create an environment in which life could exist and flourish. Some thought life was cruel and unfair; Trey knew now that it was nothing but fair, in every aspect. It gives and takes, as it needs. Before him, a star was being born, the nebulous cloud swirling around in its first stages of life. Further down, a star had collapsed into a black hole, the culmination of its energy falling inward on itself, tearing through the fabric of space. Both were just as beautiful; balance.

Trey understood it all, and felt enlightened beyond words. Deep within his subconscious, the Symbion felt it as well, and caught a glimpse of just how much the young boy was capable of. It made the alien artifact glow in pride, as it speculated over what a wonderful host he would become.

Unfortunately, Trey would not be able to recall his enlightenment once the dream was over.

Wake up, young one.

Trey's eyes parted slightly, and bright lights greeted his vision. He winced as he raised a hand to shield himself from the glare. Once his eyes adjusted, he realized he was in some sort of hospital room, different from the one in the Kon-Rensa. He glanced to his right, and saw Gama's familiar face smiling at him.

"Welcome back. I don't know how you managed it, but you escaped with the least injuries out of all of us." He gave a little chuckle. "Excuse me, I meant to say you won with the least injuries. Thank you, Trey. You protected all of us." Gama gave a nod towards his arm. "You, and the Symbion."

Trey smiled back at him. "Thank you, captain. I'm glad everything turned out alright." Behind the green frogman, Tanshin's head peered over at him, a slight smile on his grisly face. Although Trey was exhausted, his heart still overflowed with that simple gesture. I did it… I protected everyone.

Ryu and Kaze suddenly burst into the room, having heard via Gama's psyche that Trey was finally awake. They crowded around him, giving him hugs and messing his hair up. Behind them, Trey could make out Natsumi's figure standing in the doorway, a bemused smile on her face. Behind her stood King Daichi himself, his robotic parrot squawking out of control from all the excitement. The pirate king gave Trey a nod when their eyes met, and the young boy gave him a thumb up. He returned the enthusiastic embraces from Kaze and Ryu, ignoring the slight pains in his aching body. He was just happy to be alive.

Once the three patients were deemed fit to leave by the doctors, the Pirate's Nebula had a massive celebration. King Daichi ordered every bar to serve their alcohol free; it was a night of insanity and hilarity, with everyone in high spirits. Some of the pirates were still mourning the deaths of their lost comrades, but this mourning consisted of celebrating all the harder, to honor their great memories. Of course, everyone wanted to see Trey; stories had spread about 'the boy with the white arm', and how he alone had rallied them into fighting back. The pirate's victory was due to him, as far as they were concerned; Trey was a hero. They hoisted him on their shoulders, and paraded him through room after room, handing him drinks and offering their thanks over and over.

The night was a blur of handshakes and loud compliments, but Trey was finally able to get back to bed. The crew stumbled their way back to the ship- Ryu and Kaze were especially drunk, and had to be carried by Tanshin for half the trip- then went to their respective rooms. They each said goodnight to Aiya before going to sleep, and her motherly voice wished them all a good rest.

The next morning, Trey's ears still rang, but he awoke with a smile on his face. Whatever headache or hangover he had to suffer from the night before was worth it; he couldn't remember feeling more content in his entire life. He hadn't known he was capable of so much.

Then again, he thought, it wasn't entirely me, was it? I owe you a lot too, Symbion. It was the first time in a while Trey had to himself; he hadn't spoken to the Symbion throughout the celebration, since his thoughts where elsewhere.

The Symbion replied in its simple, logical voice, as always. You're welcome, Trey. We are equally worthy of praise, though; we have become a single entity, a single will. To be honest, I'm impressed you made it this far.

Did you know that would happen? Trey asked suspiciously. He still wasn't quite sure himself what had happened. You knew about that power within you, right?

Yes, but remember, it is not from within me. That ability came from within you, for you are the key to unlocking my abilities. Aiya mentioned before the Symbion Beta is the first form; you have now discovered the second phase. You took the form of the Symbion Alpha.

Alpha? What… is that? How did I even do it?

Symbion Alpha is the recognition of your strong will. As you saw, you freed your mind from others' influence, and from fear's influence. This freed your physical body from the restraints it holds. You made your choices thoughtfully and clear-headed, and that brought you to the next step of our evolution. It was an honorable choice; you endangered yourself for everyone else's sake, instead of allowing others to suffer instead. When faced with such a decision, many would run away- you stepped forward proudly to face your fears.

Trey was stunned. That's all it took? Saying 'all right, I'll go face the Da-Ku'?

Not entirely, the Symbion continued. There were many parts of your journey that led up to this point. You should know them by now; they are nothing more than the morals you uphold. You even said them yourself, in Alpha form.

Trey thought for a minute. You mean… the choices I made… like standing up for myself. And standing up for my friends, and others who would be hurt by the Da-Ku's destructive nature. Trey felt a slight shiver throughout his body; how similar it felt to when he stood up to the school bully, Roy. In fact… it felt no different, only enhanced- more.

Trey continued his thoughts. I think I understand… at first, I was too afraid to fight, and to help those who helped me. I was alone, in a new place, unsure… unconfident. I wasn't focusing on myself, and that's what caused these problems. I wasn't staying true to myself… I was afraid.

It's to be expected, the Symbion replied. Whenever I choose a new Master, they must always first overcome the fear of uncertainty.

But I did it… I overcame it, all by myself. Trey stopped himself. No, that's not right. If I were by myself, I'd have been dead from the start. I overcame it with the help of my friends- especially Aiya and the Kon-Rensa. Their strength helped me find mine. Trey shook his head, smiling in wonder. It's like they're my guardian angels or something.

You do understand, the Symbion answered, sounding slightly relieved. Life is not meant to be lived alone; the power of one person is incredible, but nothing can survive by itself. All things in life must learn to coexist with one another, and help each other, even if that means some sacrifices. The Da-Ku, as you have heard, believe they are the most powerful empire in the galaxy, and cannot be matched. They neglect the fact that they only survive because of what they steal from others, and it is from others that they get what they need. It is like you said to Gokan; destruction will turn on itself, and soon the Da-Ku will destroy themselves.

But not before they destroy the rest of us, first, Trey thought grimly.

Yes… but you've stopped them, for now. You've defeated more Da-Ku than most thought possible. You realized the truth of their anti-life nature, and you have chosen to fight for the right side.

Life... Trey wondered. You said life needs balance… is this why I'm here? Did you bring me to this universe to be the balance against the Da-Ku?

Trey swore the Symbion actually laughed. Bravo, Trey. That is indeed a part of the answer. There is much to fix in the universe, though, and the Da-Ku are just a part of it. There will be other problems, and much more for you to learn… but I am confident in you. I know that you have the potential to succeed within you.

Thanks. I hope I can do it again though; will I be able to transform into Alpha any time I want?

If your will is strong enough, it will happen on its own. You must uphold your part, and I will uphold mine. Keep in mind what you are fighting for, and why. If you forget, or change your mind for some reason, you will know the consequences of what you choose.

I see… I'll remember. My life, and my friend's lives… all of life itself is what I fight for. I fight for continuation, not destruction; I fight by choice, not from fear. I will protect those who have protected me, and continue to learn from them. I will cherish my own life, and never deny myself any possibilities, because it is up to me to decide what I'm capable of… and no one else.

Precisely, Trey. Well spoken, indeed.



Trey finally made his way to the bridge after his morning preparations, and was greeted once again by cheers. The crew stood below him, clapping loudly and hooting. Trey let out a peal of surprised laughter, amazed that they could keep going after so much celebrating. He went down to greet them, giving them each a hug with his thanks.

"You guys are crazy," he shook his head at them. "We already had my party! This better not become an everyday thing. Seriously, it's embarrassing!"

Gama patted his arm. "Don't you worry, my boy! This will probably be your last day of glory. After this, you can get back to cleaning the urinals, mopping the floors, and all your other chores while onboard our ship. How's that sound, hero?" Trey groaned, wishing he had kept his mouth shut.

"I think I could consider this more of my ship, by now… " Trey grumbled.

"To be honest with you," Kaze spoke up, "We were gonna just get right back to work, but someone wanted to congratulate you personally. We decided to make it a proper celebration and include all of us, since we arepretty much your family at this point… but anyways, I think she'd like to speak for herself." Kaze pointed behind Trey, to the egg sitting behind the captain's chair.

Trey turned as the hatch hissed open, and Aiya's small shape rose from the bed. Having her duty as the ship's computer, she hadn't left to attend the celebrations; she had remained inside the Kon-Rensa the entire time. Trey once again felt a sharp guilt for always leaving her there, but he pushed it aside and approached her, giving the android his full attention.

"Aiya," he began, smiling softly.

She smiled back at him; once again, he couldn't prepare for it. It was too perfect, mechanical but somehow still natural, like a portrait of beauty itself. " Hello, Trey. I am sorry I was not able to go to your celebration last night. I sensed that it was very important to you."

"Oh, no!" Trey shook his head. "You don't have to apologize. I should have taken the time to speak with you afterwards. I know you can't leave the ship… it's not your fault."

Aiya nodded, accepting his answer. "I want to congratulate you on successfully achieving the second phase, Symbion Alpha. It was very brave of you, acting as you did, and you deserve all the praise you are given. I know Professor Hayyani would be proud of you." She stopped herself uncharacteristically, then pressed on. "I know I am proud of you."

Trey felt something inside him give way. After all the celebrating, all the internal dialogue with the Symbion, and all the revelations he experienced… nothing touched him so deep as hearing Aiya's words. He wasn't sure why they made such an impact on him- he barely knew the android girl or Professor Hayyani- but hearing that suddenly made him feel ten times his size.

With tears brimming his eyes, he embraced Aiya wholeheartedly. He was a little surprised to find that she was warm, not what he would expect from an android; regardless, he clasped her to his body with unchecked sincerity. Aiya hugged him back a little more stiffly, as if surprised and unsure about the gesture.

"Thank you," he whispered to her, "Thank you so much." She held him a little more firmly, smiling to herself. The gears in her crystal blue eyes whirled energetically as they spun. Ryu tried to start a slow clap for Trey, but Kaze's sharp elbow stopped him from ruining their moment. Gama and Tanshin shared a knowing look, keeping their conversation in their heads; they knew about Trey's connection to Aiya and the Kon-Rensa through the Symbion, but it seemed to them like that connection was blossoming into something else. Trey didn't notice their secretive smiles, though; he was still hugging Aiya, trying to keep back the tears of joy.

For the first time since he'd arrived in this strange universe, he truly felt at home.