A/N: Ai no Kusabi is not mine, I'm just having a little fun.

Life goes on, Katze mused in the weeks that followed the explosion of Dana Bahn. His work continued, only under a new master. He now served Raul, the new head of Iason's lost empire. Somehow the world had dulled without Iason's icy presence. Those cold blue eyes no longer would bore into Katze's soul nor would the faint scar upon his cheek burn from old memories. The black market thrived, the Pet trade flourished and all of Amoi forgot Iason Mink.

Jupiter had raged at the loss of its favorite son, raging with an energy storm that crippled all of Eos for a week. The damage was swiftly repaired and life went on. Raul now sat at Jupiter's feet as its favorite son. He had stepped into Iason's position flawlessly, and nothing was lost. All the commodities of Jupiter's vast empire remained intact. The other Blondies wanted to eradicate the citizens of Ceres, wipe out all of the mongrel kind who had the capacity to destroy a Blondie. Yet Raul refused to allow that sentiment to win. Who else but the thriving mongrel population would provide their Furniture? Or the seed line for their Pets?

Latthiew's rage, when he had been notified of Raze's death in assisting Iason in attempting to save his Pet, had shook the Tempest Guard hall. Despite being a weak Blondie Latthiew was not to be trifled with. Now, though he had lost two good agents in less than a month. Tam and Raze were gone. It was a set back, both had been the best. Life would go on, Latthiew knew this, but somehow the world had dulled without the firey Raze in their mists.

Despite the silent lie, everyone believed in the loss of Raze and Rikki. All of Eos mourned the loss of brave Raze and proud Iason. Latthiew was livid, his unit had arrived at Dana Bahn seconds before it blew, there had been no time to save his agent. Now, he was willing to lead the extermination of the mongrel kind. Katze smirked humorlessly, right now transport vessels were filling their smuggler holds with mongrels. Katze's network had been busy, warning Ceres to clear out. Now, only Guardian remained, providing the Blondies their next generation of furniture and pet breeder stock.

Katze pulled out a cigarette, lit it and took a deep drag, letting the nicotine hit his veins. Raul Am now led the Tanagura Syndicate. Katze continued to run the black market. Life went on, and the world forgot his master. With the chaos calmed, the loss and grief finally hit Katze like a tidal wave. His throat hitched silently as the cigarette fell from his trembling lips, his face cradled in his hands as sobs of loss and despair wracked his frame. How was a Furniture, a servant trained from his earliest years, to go on when his beloved master was gone?

"Its not my style to flirt, but at least I can curl up by your feet." Rikki leaned against Iason's broad shoulder, curling close like a lover. Something had been carved from Rikki when he had been castrated. The constant anger had been snuffed, the anxious need to be on the move had simmered to a contented sigh at his master's side.

Iason looked down on his pet, a small smile brightening his features. They had spent years battling each other for dominance, yet now, at the end Iason had found the peace he had spent his life questing for. It was here, on this shuddering walkway in the middle of this inferno that was swallowing them whole that he finally found his contentment curled up with his beloved pet sitting like a loyal hound at his side. Icy blue eyes softened, watching Rikki pull out a silver case and pulling a long, black cigarette.

"Care for one?" Rikki asked holding one up to Iason, dark eyes deep with emotion.

As Rikki looked up his eyes held only Iason's gaze. The flame of resistance, the burning ember of hatred had cooled to a warm, delicate spark of devotion. "Could do. Not bad to have a last smoke with you." Iason murmured, icy gaze warm with affection. They each took a night black cigarette, Rikki lighting Iason's then leaning in intimately close to light his own with Iason's burning joint of poison. As the cigarette lit they breathed in each other's breath, sharing one last deep kiss inches apart.

The toxins in the Black Moon cigarettes lulled them, letting them slip into peaceful unconsciousness held in each others arms.

"I see them," a heavily muffled voice spoke over the com radio linking the dark figures moving through the fire and smoke of Dana Bahn. "On the catwalk."

Seven dark figures jog marched through the flame and smoke, gathering up the too still, battered remains of Iason Mink and Rikki the Dark. Turning on their heels, they raced from the open entrance door and out a side exit cut through the very metal of Dana Bahn. "Target secure, lets get out of here." The tallest of the dark figures spoke across the com as they loaded into their black low altitude flitter. Once on board the group strapped their passengers into waiting benches. Oxygen masks went over their faces as the flitter rose from the ground, fleeing just as the building behind them exploded, threatening to send them crashing into the earth from the turbulence.

"Lock it down!" A woman's voice yelled, and all turned to their stations, securing precious cargo, and weapons to weather out the blast. Once the air settled the seven armor clad figures removed their masks, revealing one woman and six men.

"Gun Master," The oldest of the men, a man with skin as dark as the black armor they wore and scars riddling his face. He more resembled an onyx figure than a man. "How do we know these two was worth nearly getting our dicks fried?"

The woman smirked, her skin the color of dark chocolate glowed with youth, her eyes shining a nearly golden hue. "Stubbs, that," She shoved her thumb over her shoulder, pointing at the massive pale figure lying bloodless on the closest bench with his legs half missing, "Is our missing commander, he's to be called Light. The other is his hit man, supposedly he can kill any of us blindfolded."

"So what, we got Light and Darkness?" Stubbs asked sarcastically.

"Precisely," Gun Master smirked, her plum hued lips turning upwards in a sardonic smirk. "Now we get them to Stitch and see if they live." The rest of the short trip to the Tanagura space port was filled with tense silence between the hired mercenaries.

"So this is it?" a deep voice pierced though a fog of pain, straight into his brain. "Our commander, and his assassin for hire? This is them?" Incredulity filled the voice, the rising disbelief jarring him into wakefulness.

"Yes," a familiar voice replied with soothing, cold venom making him smirk as he continued to struggle for consciousness.

"Boomer, behave!" a fierce feminine voice rang out. "Commander Light, welcome aboard the Illiana. We await your orders."

"How is he?" Iason asked, a hand caressing gently along the pale, too still features of Rikki beside him.

"You should be dead." a gruff, stubborn voice ground out. "Smoking Blue Star or whatever poisoned nonsense it was. One cigarette could have cleared a small ship yet you each smoked one. I should be calling this a miracle. That boy has suffered blood loss, massive trauma, widespread infection from being castrated, and blood infection for lack of any antibiotics of any kind. The butcher responsible should be held for attempted murder.

"Don't think you're getting off lightly either. You're in no better shape than that boy beside you. Blood loss, irreparable damage to both femurs, plus the lining of your lungs is damaged from smoke inhalation. Any one of these should have killed either of you, all together you're lucky to not be on permanent life support."

"Ugh," the gruff voice continued with a groan, "Yet somehow your legs are stable enough for prosthetics and, given a few weeks, Rikki's jewels will grow back – they're already halfway there. He'll just have to be chaste for that amount of time or suffer agonizing pain and possible permanent nervous damage from the hips down. If that happens he'll be dead weight."

"Forgive him, sir." The woman spoke again, "This is your ship doctor, Stitch. He's good, but not with people or orders. Stitch, be nice to the commander, he's a Blondie and can crush your throat with two fingers."

"Humph, Sword Master take your own advice and leave my business alone! Light, you're stable enough, you're prosthetics are almost done. This one on the other hand, he's a mystery. He looks like what your perverse planet calls a mongrel, he's pretty enough to be a Pet, is built like a wiry street rat and yet heals as rapidly as a Blondie. Just who is he."

"My Pet." Iason replied blandly, making a chorus of voices gasp in furious revulsion.

"Your what?" Stitch demanded.

"My teeth are still sharp." Rikki rasped, one eye creaking open weakly to look up into his master's concerned face, then glanced around the room taking in the strangers around them, and the vast expanse of stars filling the window beyond. The men and lone woman standing over them were strange, built hugely like no one in all of Amoi had ever looked. The woman was tall, towering over all the others, her strangely beautiful flaxen bronze hair nearly seven feet in the air. Flanking her were men with missing eyes, their massive shoulders wider than Rikki was tall. They all bristled with weapons, cannons mounted on shoulder brackets and bladed knives strapped to arms and across their chests.

Rikki took their stances and weaknesses in with a glance. The woman favored her left side. The tallest male had recently lost three fingers on his right hand. That man was right handed, and still was learning to compensate. The doctor was older than any man Rikki had ever seen before, bald, stiffness in his fingers and knee but still strong. It spoke volumes of a life of adventure and violence. The others had their own weaknesses.

Rikki's eyes tracked across the crew in a second, taking in their faces and stances before he closed his eyes tiredly once more. The men standing around the bed saw only a small, weak, injured boy, but Gun Master, whatever her name really was, saw dark knowing eyes, a quick wit and a steely resolve. She smirked at the smaller man, liking what she saw in him.

"Will you be my Pet, and my attack dog?" Iason asked softly, leaning down to whisper in Rikki's perfectly smooth, curved ear, eyes glittering with the same devotion they had held in the fires of Dana Bahn.

"Unleash me and I will fight, collar me and I will sit at your feet. Force me to bend to your will and I will turn my teeth to your throat. My pride is still strong." Rikki rasped weakly one eye opening lazily like an injured hound saving its strength to take his attacker to hell with him.

Iason nodded, holding out a hand to help Rikki sit up. Together they looked at the highest ranked members of the Illiana's crew. A misfit band of mercenaries and soldiers of fortune turned pirates. They were rugged, hard, and hailed from worlds Rikki knew nothing of. "Meet Rikki the Dark."

Heads all around glared dangerously, until they met Rikki's eyes. Dark eyes once soft with emotions filled with a fierce hardness in a second. Whatever demons they saw shining from his eyes matched their own, and the crew submitted, for now. Later, they all knew, he would be tested rigorously.

Rikki leaned back against Iason's shoulder, curling slightly against his master as the others filed out. Leaving the two entwined in their shared recovery bed. A wounded mongrel and a crippled Blondie sharing their pain and the tenuous bond they shared lingering from addictive poison and a broken pet ring.

"I meant it, I will spend the rest of my life sitting at your feet." Rikki spoke softly.

"There is nothing left to bind you to me. Guy cut you free." The whispered words were laced with anguish and shattered hope. Rikki looked up, meeting his master's gaze with a quirked smile.

"I was no longer a man. I was worthless to you. Yet, you saved me when you could have thrown away a damaged product."

"That was never an option. I have made too large of an investment in you." Iason traced the back of one finger against Rikki's slender jaw. "Trained to my will, tempered as a black market agent and hardened in the ranks of the Tempest Guard. You have been the best at every task and very valuable to all your masters. You bear in your veins a priceless serum giving you advanced healing, increased strength and sharper skills. Everything you are, I have sculpted to be better, stronger. I have made you my perfect Pet."

Rikki sighed, taking in the slanted praise. He had been engineered by Iason's will, made different from a normal mongrel. His vain pride and haughty greed had been stripped from him and replaced with a new patience, and resolve. There was nothing he would not do for Iason, nothing he would not deal with for his master.

They dozed together as the days passed. Rikki's body finishing healing as his strength slowly returned. He found himself slipping from the hospital ward during the sleep shift, memorizing every duct, access tunnel and hallway when no one would notice. The empty storage containers at the base of the vessel, the clear cockpit at the front. Rikki knew there was a language these pirates spoke that he had yet to learn. It was like taking up work in the black market, or as a Tempest Guard. Each role had a lingo, something that set them apart and kept the outside world from understanding their secrets. It was time to learn another language.

Iason watched as Rikki learned the ship, the crew and their ways. He was proud of his pet and found himself relying on the dark mongrel to translate when Gun Master or one of the other crew came in with updates. This ship was overwhelming to the Blondie. The pirates were rough, held little respect for rank or power aside from their own crew, and Iason had yet to prove his power to them.

Rikki helped, he had already fought several of the crew members in hand to hand combat. This had made the mongrel respected amongst the lowest dregs of the crew. And his skills, his attention to the smallest details and the big picture simultaneously had endeared him to Gun Master and Captain Haiyuka. The two ranking members of Illiana had come to Rikki once or twice for input. It was encouraging to the mongrel, making Rikki needed in this crew. It was good for him, replacing the gang he had once led. Iason watched in silence, internally smiling as Rikki pointed out prospective targets among several ships sharing their shipping lane.

"This one," Rikki pointed to a blip on the map. "Look at its ion trail. The more mass a ship has to transport the greater the fuel usage it requires. Its build has the smallest structural mass but these extended cargo bays allow it to hold twice it's recommended loading. That means they have sacrificed weaponry and speed for capacity."

"But," Gun Master prompted testing the smallest member of their crew with a stern gaze.

"But." Rikki chewed the tip of his thumb, his eyes scrutinizing the display before him until he noticed several tiny moving blips moving around it. "It has armed escorts. So they can intercept attackers."

"So, what do we do?" She asked as the captain and navigator looked on with slight smiles tugging at their features.

Rikki's dark eyes tracked over the display once more, alighting on the target ship and an approaching asteroid cluster. "We ambush them from the asteroid field, take out the escorts then claim the cargo."

"Too predictable." Iason spoke up, breaking the pensive silence.

"Not necessarily," Rikki responded unflinchingly, his eyes challenging Iason's with a smirk. "There are two flitters attached to the lower hold. The Dragon's Flame is large enough to be a light armored transport. Have a small crew take it into the target's flight path, then fake a stall. When the cargo vessel attempts to answer the SOS we come up from behind, clean out the cargo vessel and 'abduct' the small transport."

Iason nodded silently, eyes gleaming in satisfaction. "Then give the orders, Darkness."

Rikki smiled slightly, internally amused that he was now on his fourth identity. He had been Rikki the Dark, Rikki the Pet, Raze Linx and now, he was Darkness. Somehow, this name felt the most apt. "Yes sir, Light."

"Why am I going on this thing again?" Stitch demanded as Darkness ushered him onto the Dragon's Flame.

"You are a frigate medic shuttling between launch ports. On your way your ship malfunctioned. The mechanic on your flitter damaged his hand and is en route for prosthetics." Darkness smirked up at Stitch, dark eyes shadowed beneath black bangs as he stood in the dimly lit corridor. The pale skin of the petite youth allowing him to blend into the pale gray walls of the service corridor and become part of the ship itself. It was a disturbing illusion that sent shivers up the medic's spine.

"Lad, I know it isn't my business, but why wear a collar?" Stitch asked worriedly, stern, grey eyes studying Rikki intensely.

Darkness only smiled, a hint of melancholy peace suffusing his features as he turned away from the Dragon's Flame. His fingers caressed the close fitting choker hugging his throat just below his adams apple tenderly. He vanished, leaving the ship doctor behind to muse pensively at the strange lad.

"Guess that's my cue to mind my own damn business." Stitch shook his head then moved into the smaller vessel with a small skeleton crew posing as a crew transport ship. With steady, work worn hands he sealed the airlock hatch and stalked down the small hall to his position as the lone passenger.

"Your orders, Sir?" Gun Master asked as she finished suiting up. Behind her, standing before the rough crew like a pillar of alabaster stood Light, his integrated prosthetics now matched seamlessly to his legs. The tight fitting body suit and loose, voluptuous over shirt hugged him in so many right places. Gun Master was almost willing to give up her dignity by tearing off her armor to take the man. Unfortunately, he was stronger than her, and the only thing she would get from trying to tumble with the man, no matter how tempting bedding him was, would be a broken neck.

"Follow Darkness." Light commanded flatly, all emotions absent from his face. "If he is hurt in any way, you all will suffer two fold." The tall man turned, and vanished into the depths of the Illiana, leaving the crew to finish preparations.

"Is it just me, or does that man scare the shit out of you?" Stubbs asked calmly, his voice hiding the uncomfortable fear coiling in his gut.

"Its not just you, trust me." Boomer's deep voice replied, "He put Darkness to the ground in one move yesterday."

The group suppressed a shudder. They had each tested Darkness' mettle on the mats, and all of them had lost. Gun Master still had the bruises on her arms and shoulders from his hits. "So we're supposed to protect a man who can kill us six ways before we even know we're dead?"

"'About sums it up." Gun Master sighed, "Come on, lets get this over with. I still can't believe I'm following a kid. I thought skipping the military would save me from following kids with higher rank." She grumbled as she left the locker room and headed for the air lock. From here, it was all in Darkness' hands.

Iason sat in the bridge, hands resting idly on his raised chair's arm rests. He watched, as he always had, the crew and captain perform their roles. Lips quirked in a mild smirk, he let the men complete their tasks. It was like watching the doings of the mongrels in Ceres, as they went about their simple lives. These men, though truly free were just as much prisoners of their ships as the mongrels of Ceres were prisoners of their status. The thought was amusing, and Iason was pleased.

"Light-sama," Captain Haiyuka spoke up, shattering Iason's silent amusement. "Master Darkness' video feed is coming in. You can watch it on the forward screen, sir."

Iason nodded his approval, watching with calm surety as the various feeds were projected on several screens from each ship and crew member active in their heist. He watched passively, letting Rikki's preparations run through, and found himself enraptured with watching the small mongrel's hands. The signal came through the com, confirming that the cargo vessel had taken the bait. On Dragon's Flame's screen Iason watched the cargo ship dock with the smaller transport, a small stream of atmosphere leaking from a side panel marking the ship's distress.

Pale eyes remained emotionless over his smirk. Iason let his white gloved hand lift to support his chin, one finger lightly touching his bottom lip. The cargo vessel had taken the bait. He flicked his other hand to signal a crewman at the communication consul to signal the assault team to launch and turned, shifting his icy gaze back to Rikki's screen.

On the Trident Rikki's group waited in silence as their small assault vessel drifted with the small outer asteroids. Their ship glided through the darkness on minimal power, a highly metallic asteroid amongst the rocky masses. The twenty man team waited in silence each unit leader standing before their five-man crew. Their assignments were known, Stubbs and Boomer were headed for the cargo bay, Gun Master would hit the repair bay for parts and supplies before 'hijacking' the Dragon's Flame. Rikki would hit the cockpit and ensure there were enough survivors to speak of the Illiana and her villainy. Overhead a red light began to blink. The crew was cast into a bloody wash of light then plunged into strobing darkness.

Iason's heart spasmed, his breath froze as Rikki left his field of vision. The dark mongrel looked back to the camera, nodding tersely towards them through the screen before he darted into the dark, awning maw of the air lock connecting the two ships. For a moment, Iason's vision was consumed with the flames of Dana Bahn. His hands clenched on the arm rests, denting metal and splintering wood with a painful groan that echoed through the Illiana's silent cockpit.

Captain Haiyuka glanced sharply back at their commander, noticing the pale face and stern expression with a sigh. It always hurt to send someone you had loved, or had made love to into a fight. Seeing that same agony etched across Light's usually stoic expression made something in the Captain's gut loosen. Since Iason's awakening in their medical bay weeks ago Haiyuka and his crew had harbored doubts and suspicions about the former Blondie. Now he knew that Light would never abandon Darkness. The captain smirked, although Darkness wore the collar is was Light who was chained to his Pet.

To be continued ...