Chapter 3:

The First Kabedon in Space

The Hoshinauts

For the rest of their journey, they rushed through a dozen slice-of-life staples. They even played shiritori. Erika lost every game. Hina spent most of the time at the controls, but Sachiko took over occasionally.

During one of Hina's breaks, Erika was ordered to record Hina and Yasu playing a video game. The two of them floated shoulder-to-shoulder. At the beginning, Hina was visibly uncomfortable, but after a few minutes, she relaxed, and a soft smile returned to her face. Yasu, on the other hand, had been enjoying it the entire time. It made Erika feel like she was intruding on a private moment, and she looked away from the camera. The thing could stabilize itself anyways.

Near the end of their journey, Hina, Sachiko, and Yasu sprang into action, leaving Erika with nothing to do but stew in her own fear. In contrast to their nonchalant attitude during takeoff, the three girls were tense as the ISS approached the shuttle.

Several long minutes passed before Yasu let out a sigh of relief. “That was perfect.”

“Good job,” Sachiko concurred, clapping Hina on the shoulder. “Let’s get out of this tin can.”

“And into a bigger tin can?” Erika scoffed. Everyone ignored her. They weren’t going to let her ruin the moment.

Sachiko pulled open the hatch and gestured to Hina. “Would you like the honor? You did most of the work.”

“The commander always goes first,” Hina answered. “I’ll be first next time.”

“OK,” Sachiko smiled. “Do me a favor and grab the cargo then. Yasu, follow us with the camera. OCOMM wants us to film a tour of the entire station, and since we have to show the cargo all the things she shouldn’t touch, I figure we can take care of both at once.”

As Sachiko entered the ISS, she had to admit Erika had a point. It was roomier than the shuttle, but metal walls still pressed in on all sides. Damn it, this should have been a moment of pure joy, but Erika had soured the mood.

Adopting a fake smile and a sing-song voice, Sachiko turned to face the camera. “Welcome to the ISS! This is the Harmony module. These four doors around me are crew quarters.” They were arranged in a square. One above her, one below her, and one to each side. She opened the door to her right and gestured for Yasu to come closer. “There’s not much space in there, but just wait until you see how cramped the quarters in Zvezda are.”

“I call dibs on this one,” Hina said, sliding into the cabin across from Sachiko.

“What’s the difference?” Yasu chuckled. “They’re all the same.”

Pointing to the two crew cabins above and below, Hina answered, “You gotta reorient yourself when entering and exiting these. Always takes me a bit to adjust.”

“I’m shocked,” Yasu teased. “The space program’s prodigy has a weakness?”

“You don’t have to worry about it,” Sachiko told them. “Erika and I will be bunking in Zvezda.”

Once again, Erika noticed Hina tense up. Her shoulders drooped and her lips pressed into a thin line. This time, Yasu noticed as well. Sachiko, it seemed, was the only one oblivious.

Yasu cleared her throat. “Is that really OK? I mean…” She trailed off while thinking of a reason to challenge the sleeping arrangements. “Won’t the cargo be a security risk?”

“She’s a security risk everywhere,” Sachiko frowned, “but I suppose we should keep her out of the Russian segment as much as possible. OK, she and I will bunk here, and you two can take Zvezda.”

Erika bit her lower lip. She had been given orders not to interfere with the hoshinauts. At the same time, they had made her painfully aware that her life was in their hands. If she wanted to survive, she decided it was better to point out potential issues. “They don’t want to room together.”

Both Hina and Yasu shot death stares at Erika. Sachiko only blinked in surprise.

“That’s not—” Hina started.

Sachiko cut her off. “We can figure it out later. Let’s continue the tour.” She took a deep breath to reset herself, then she led them to their next destination.

They passed quickly through Destiny, which was mostly bare, and emerged into Unity. Sachiko spent a few minutes showing off the food containers and demonstrating how to eat in space. When she was finished, she floated towards the airlock.

“This is the Quest Joint Airlock. We use it when going on space walks.” She shifted her eyes towards Erika, but continued to talk in her tour guide voice. “It’s usually not dangerous, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can endanger yourself in there.”

“Really?” Erika asked. “I heard they’re actually quite safe. You can only kill yourself if you’re trying.”

“That’s true,” Sachiko said, “for someone with the proper training.” She dropped her tour guide persona. “I don’t want you getting any closer to the airlock than you are now. Got it?”

“Sure,” Erika shrugged.

Something about Erika’s casual answer caused Sachiko to snap. Before either of them knew what was happening, Sachiko grabbed Erika by the collar and slammed her against the wall.

“I’m serious,” Sachiko snarled, her fingers tightening her grip. “Stay away from the airlock. If you have a death wish, wait until you’re back on Earth. I swear, if you do something stupid and get yourself killed, I will track down everyone you’ve ever loved, and I will make them suffer. I will not lose another crew member. Understand?”

Erika’s expression remained blank. “You don’t scare me, Sachiko. Your threats may work on the director, but they won’t work on me.”

“He knows what I’m capable of. You don’t.”

“The whole world knows what you’re capable of. You’ve commanded more missions than anyone. You’ve saved JAXA from collapse twice. You push and push until you achieve your goals, but that’s just the public Sachiko. In private, you’re single-minded and obsessive. Everyone works behind the scenes to contain your impulsive actions and temper tantrums.”

“That sounds like someone you wouldn’t want to cross,” Hina pointed out.

“It does,” Erika agreed, “except that Sachiko’s not a violent person.”

“That’s not what they say on the net,” Sachiko grimaced.

“I reviewed the recordings myself,” Erika said. “I know you didn’t cause those accidents. You’re not a murderer—You’re just unlucky.”

Sachiko didn’t know if Erika truly believed that, or if she was just trying to get Sachiko to let her guard down, but she wasn’t going to overplay her hand. She released Erika. “At least you have the guts to say that to my face.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Think about it. These two were assigned to this crew because they’re the best. No matter what danger my misfortune brings, they’ll survive it. And then there’s you.”

“Point taken. I won’t go near the airlocks. Happy?”

“I’ll be happy when we’re on the ground again in one piece. For now, let’s continue the tour.” She turned back towards Yasu. “You didn’t record all that, did you?”

“Of course I did,” Yasu answered.

“Delete it,” Sachiko demanded.

“No way. It’s the first kabedon in space! It’s a historic moment.”

“Pretty sure it’s not,” Hina interjected. “People lived in space for centuries before the war.”

“Fine. Whatever. I’ll delete it later. The lighting will be perfect to film the cupola in a few minutes, so let’s do that first.”

Sachiko shook her head. “We’re skipping the cupola.”

“But it’s in the script,” Yasu pointed out.

“Well, that’s a mistake. We can’t show people what the Earth looks like. It’s too depressing.”

“Commander,” Hina said, placing a hand on Sachiko’s shoulder, “people have a right to know. They should see it. It’ll drive home the importance of the space program.”

It was a good point, one Sachiko couldn’t argue with. “You’re right. Anything for the space program. Just give me a moment to prepare myself.”

She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, the fake smile had returned to her face. “Next is Tranquility,” she said.

“It’s my favorite place on the station,” Hina interjected.

“It’s Hina’s favorite place on the station,” Sachiko parroted in her sing-song tour guide voice. “That’s important information that everyone needs to know. Tell me, Hina, why is it your favorite place on the station?”

“Cuz it’s where I get swole,” Hina answered, ignoring Sachiko’s sarcasm.

“That’s right,” Sachiko said. “There’s lots of exercise machines in here. They’re all designed for working out in space, but we’re not going to get very swole. In fact, because of the low gravity, we’ll be losing muscle mass. That’s kinda depressing, so let’s move on to something else. Over here is the—the cupola.”

Noticing Sachiko’s hesitation, Hina put a hand on her shoulder. “You don’t have to push yourself. We’re ahead of schedule. We can do it some other time.”

Yasu lowered the camera. “That might be for the best. No offense, but this whole tour thing is bo-ring.”

“If you think you can do better, maybe you should do it,” Sachiko prodded.

Now it was Yasu’s turn to hesitate. Sachiko was eyeing her with a smirk on her face, which she knew meant she had annoyed Sachiko. Her heart seized with fear at the prospect. Sachiko was merciless to people who got on her bad side. Yasu had seen it first hand. She’d even assisted in Sachiko’s bullying. As awful as it was, it had helped boost her self-confidence. If Sachiko turned against her, she knew she would lose it all.

On the other hand, the prospect of giving the tour herself was daunting. Volunteering to be in front of a camera? To be watched by who knows how many people worldwide? That was too embarrassing. There was no way she could do that. The safest thing to do was to apologize and back down. Let Sachiko give the tour, and try to get back on her good side.

And yet, if she did that, she’d still be the same meek girl she’d always been. The whole reason she’d joined the space program, the only reason she was here now, was to prove to Hina that she could stand as her equal.

“Sure,” Yasu shrugged, hoping it came off nonchalantly. “Anything for the space program. I’ve got some ideas on how to spice it up.”

Holding her breath, she waited for Sachiko’s reply. If she’d miscalculated…

“OK, I’ll leave it to you.”

The smirk remained on her face, but there was now something else there, too. Yasu couldn’t identify it. Was it amusement? Malice? In truth, it was relief. Sachiko was more than happy to have Yasu take this duty off her hands, but Yasu didn’t pick up on that.

“I don’t know about you,” Hina said, “but I could use a break. We’ve been working all day.”

“Alright, alright,” Sachiko sighed. “You two can grab your things from the shuttle and get settled in. I’ll join you once I’ve finished showing the cargo all the things she shouldn’t touch.”

Unable to hide her nervousness any longer, Yasu bolted from the module. As she left, she heard Sachiko address Erika.

“The bathroom’s over here. You remember how to use it?”

“Of course I do. I did train for this.”

“Barely,” Sachiko scoffed. “Let’s go over it again, just to make sure.”

It didn’t take long for Yasu to retrieve her personal belongings from the shuttle. There was no need to unload the entire thing at once: It wasn’t going anywhere. After quickly stashing her things in one of the Zvezda cabins, she grabbed a tablet and headed for the Kibou module. It was roomy and quiet, the perfect atmosphere for drawing.

The picture came quickly. With strong lines, Yasu sketched Sachiko pinning Erika to the wall outside the airlock. She didn’t draw Sachiko’s hand around Erika’s throat, instead placing it next to Erika’s head, like a proper kabedon.

Satisfied with her work, she typed out a caption.

Fire burned in Sachiko’s eyes. “Promise me you won’t go near the airlock. I don’t want to see you hurt.”

“I—I won’t.”

“Promise me! If anything happens to you up here…”

Erika’s chest tightened. Sachiko was being overprotective, but she didn’t hate that…

“OK, I promise.”

“Good girl,” Sachiko smiled, “now let me show you how to use the bathroom.”

Yasu deleted that last line. Even though she was posting these anonymously, there was always a chance she could get found out, and she didn’t want anyone to think she had a piss fetish.

Moments later, the finished product was uploaded, and the comments started pouring in.


In front of the airlock 😭 Poor Sachiko-sama

HNNNG This is going to make me jump ships.

Nice work as always.

When are you finally going to do Hina x Yasu? You’ve done all the other pairings to death.

The comments continued to come, but Yasu couldn’t take her eyes off that last one. She stared at it so hard that she feared the text might sear itself into her retinas.

“Ugh. Read the fucking room, moron,” she grunted, shoving the tablet away from her.

Of course she’d never drawn Hina x Yasu. Of course she hadn’t, but it wasn’t like she didn’t want to. It was just that, every time she tried, her mind went blank. She couldn’t imagine what a romantic relationship between the two of them would look like. After all, it could never happen in real life.

No matter how desperately she wished for it.

Lucky / Glenn
Pope Evaristus