It's somewhere between the time that the Galgaran ship shoots out his thrusters and when they throw him into their holding cells that Taehyung thinks hey, I've had better days.
"Is its ship of any use to us?" the Galgaran commander asks at the soldiers lead Taehyung down the long hallway to his temporary home. Well, they drag him, really. Taehyung is a petty bitch and is basically dead weight in their hands. They might have roughed him up a little to make him more cooperative, Ulra knows it's happened before, but Galgarans are more than strong enough to drag Taehyung for miles. He doubts they even notice the extra weight.
"It's a junker ship," says one of the soldiers. "He's a scavenger."
Taehyung makes a noise of protest. That ship is his baby.
"It'll cost more to fix the thruster than the ship is worth."
That's more or less what Taehyung figured. He flies a Tank 240, an old model from the Steel Age, a ship almost entirely made of spare parts at this point. It's likely worth more than they're giving it credit for — Taehyung knows what he's doing when it comes to remodeling — but finding the right thrusters and the paneling to match the modifications is going to be a pain in the ass.
Taehyung uses the energy he's saving by basically being carried like a sack of potatoes to weigh the pros and cons of trying to save his baby and comes up short on one side.
"Scrap it for parts," says the commander, but Taehyung has already said goodbye and is thinking of other ways to save his ass so he's not particularly put out. He's not getting off this vessel on his Tanker.
"What are Galgarans even doing in this sector?" Taehyung asks. He's about a day away from the closest planet, a large one where he can get lost for a while and get rid of his space legs, but it's not one under Galgaran occupation. They’re about a week and a half away from any of Galgar's planets at this point, and about two weeks away from Galgar itself. Ships barely ever pass this way, and Taehyung had gotten too comfortable. Still, he's crafty enough to get out of most sticky situations.
He never stood a chance against the fleet ship.
"It speaks," sniffs the commander.
Taehyung has been here for all of half an hour and he's already tired of the xenophobic bullshit. "Galgarans used to be a fun time," he replies snippily. "Not the best alcohol I've ever had, but quality parties. Now you're all assholes."
That does get him a slap to the face, but the commander looks at him like he's a speck on her shoe, so he doubts anything he'd say would bother her too much. It's not like he has any power in this situation.
"Put him with the other one," the commander says. "I don't want to have to cleanse the ship anymore than I already do."
One of the soldiers coughs uncertainly. "But sir—"
"They are dirty, sour creatures," the commander says. She peers at Taehyung closely with a grim smile. "Perhaps they will destroy each other."
The soldier bows his head to her. "Yes, sir."
Taehyung spent plenty of time around dirty, sour creatures and they’re usually pretty good, chill company. He gets along with most people. He isn’t too worried. He just has to survive long enough to figure out an escape plan.
In all his days of minor felony, he’s learned the best answer is usually the simplest one.
They throw him in a cell and he’s already grinning.
Taehyung is thrown into the cell and the door is shut in his face before he can even make a nuisance of himself. "Fuck you, sirs and madams," he says at the door, fairly mild. He rolls his head on his neck, shrugs his shoulders, takes a deep breath.
"All Galgarans in positions of power are referred to as 'sir.'"
Taehyung turns away. "Hello to you, too."
His fellow dirty, sour creature is a human boy, or what appears to be one. He can't have been there for very long, considering that he looking relatively clean and healthy and the Galgarans don't have a reputation for treating their prisoners kindly. He's small, but it's hard to tell how much of that is his size and how much is because he's sitting in the corner with his knees up to his chest. His hair is dark, hard to see the color in the dim lighting. Blue maybe? That's a fad from a year or so ago, the bright hair-washes. His face is shadowed and obscure.
"They're going to kill you, you know?" the stranger says idly. "They're not a nice bunch."
"Fuck Galgarans, honestly," Taehyung agrees. "I didn't even do anything. I'm just a lonely junker out exploring the vastness of space."
The stranger laughs. "If you weren't doing anything, why did they bother beaming you in?"
"Because I'm excellent company." In reality, Taehyung really hadn't been doing much, but he did have about 70,000 clicks worth of scavenged materials shoved into his little Tanker. He worked hard for that haul, but it's not worth fighting through the soldiers to get his shit back. He thinks back to the last number he saw in his account and tries to calculate what kind of ship he can get and how fast. If he steals a Galgaran one it wouldn't be worth keeping around. They'd find him immediately. Maybe he could sell it, or sell parts. Call in a favor or two. It's doable. "What about you?"
"I'm a murderer," the stranger says happily. "Vicious and bloodthirsty. It's best not to get near me."
"Do you have a name?" Taehyung asks. "I've found murderers to be delightful company, as long as you treat them nicely."
The stranger laughs. His voice is high pitched and smooth. Cloying almost. "Is that your schtick? You're charming until the people capturing you let you leave?"
"You think I'm charming?" Taehyung bats his eyelashes. "How do you know I've been captured before? I might be a prisoner-virgin."
"Please." The stranger stretches leisurely. "No one is so calm their first time." His teeth flash white in the minimal light as he grins. "I doubt you're a virgin."
"Naughty, naughty." Taehyung clicks his tongue. "I'm a lad of good virtue."
"A scavenger with virtue?" The stranger rolls his eyes. "I haven't looked out a window recently but I doubt pigs are flying."
"So you are human?" Language is difficult for space travelers. There are devices you can have implanted for language translation, but things often get lost, and idioms are almost impossible to grasp, but Taehyung knows that one.
The stranger pauses. "I am. Although I've never been to Earth. Or seen a real pig."
"Space is much more interesting," Taehyung assures him. He grew up in the countryside, and it was nice and peaceful. His family were farmers, and in another life maybe Taehyung is, too, but instead he's here in deep space trying to keep himself alive. It's much more fun. "If you're human, you should have a name I can pronounce."
The stranger eyes him warily. "What good is a name if we're going to die here?"
"If you truly believed things are hopeless you wouldn't be counting the steps of the guards outside."
Galgaran soldiers wear the most pristine boots, and besides being both fashionable and sturdy they have the added bonus of being quite loud. There are two of them, that Taehyung can hear clearly. 14 steps makes one pass, and then there's about ten seconds before footsteps are heard again.
The stranger smiles cutely. "A clever boy, then."
"The most clever."
"If you get me out of here, I'll tell you my name," the stranger purrs, standing up. He takes a step closer, and in the small cell that settles him firmly into Taehyung's space, but Taehyung can't say he minds, especially not once he gets a better view of his face. The stranger is small, smaller than Taehyung anyway, but beautiful in a sharp, almost alarming kind of way. His hair is steel gray, not blue like Taehyung had thought. His lips are big and plush and smooth, his skin is close to flawless, his eyes are dark and full of something that is almost magnetic. Taehyung can tell he's trying to pull Taehyung into his rhythm, and Taehyung lets himself be pulled because he has nowhere better to be.
He grins. "Something tells me you'd get out of here just fine on your own."
The stranger shrugs, smoothing down an imaginary wrinkle in Taehyung's collar, smoothing a hand down Taehyung's chest, and Taehyung is delighted. "Two heads are better than one."
Taehyung has absolutely no doubts that if this man didn't think Taehyung could be useful he'd leave him behind. He grins. "You're a man of many pretenses."
Gently, the man pats Taehyung's chest with a cat-like grin. "We understand each other."
Taehyung clicks his tongue. "I'm not getting us out of this cell until I have a way to get off of the ship," he says. "My ship won't be getting us anywhere soon. I'm not about to wander around defenseless."
"My ship is undamaged and in the holding bay," the stranger tells him.
The stranger looks at him incredulously. "Who even uses keys anymore? It's bio-locked."
Taehyung's Tanker had definitely used a key, but he'll admit that it's significantly outdated. "And they haven't messed with it? It won't do us any good to get to the hangar and have it be in pieces."
His eyes turn cool. "They wouldn't dare."
Okay. "Do you have any idea where the hangar is?"
The man bites his lip red. "I've been on a fleet ship like this before. I think I remember the way, but that's assuming it's the same schematic." Taehyung can see the gears turning in his head, but the stranger doesn't look unsure. Perhaps he won't allow himself to.
"It's better than if I were alone," Taehyung admits. He's gotten out of worse situations. "I'll take it."
"But I have no way to get us out of the cell."
Taehyung takes the buzz knife out of his pocket and the stranger's jaw drops. "Did they not search you when you got here?" he demands. "Fuck! That shit slices through metal twice this thick."
"I took it from one of the guards," Taehyung tells him proudly, flipping the blade open. The electric blade slides up from the handle, glowing neon blue. The hair on Taehyung's arm stands on end and he grins maniacally. "They sure do think scavengers are stupid here, don't they?"
For a moment, the man looks at the tool in Taehyung's hand incredulously. "Don't act so defensive of scavengers when we both know you aren't one."
"Do we?" Taehyung asks innocently. "I'm simply a jack-of-all-trades."
"We'll see." The stranger looks at Taehyung, considering. "Introduce yourself."
Taehyung hums. "Get me out of here, and I'll tell you my name," he says innocently.
The man's expression flattens. "It's cuter when I do it."
"What? You can't take it?"
"No more flirting." The man rolls his shoulders. "This block is set up like a square. There's two guards walking the perimeter and one standing outside the door." Taehyung hadn't been aware of the one outside, but he supposes it makes sense. "We can deal with the one as soon as the door is out, but the others will hear the commotion. They'll call for help."
They're doing the rotations more slowly now that the commander has left. It's around 15 seconds before the next set of footsteps can be heard.
"The buzz knife isn't loud if you use it right," Taehyung tells him. "If we take care of the guard at the door quietly we can catch the next guard on rotation by surprise. We just have to do it quickly." Taehyung isn't a fighter. That's the biggest issue. He's tall and well built but his focus has never been on that sort of physicality. His temporary partner is a pretty, delicate sort of thing, but he doesn't seem at all put out by the idea of a fight.
"I'll take care of it," the stranger says firmly, hopping up and down on his toes a bit in preparation. "You just have to open the door."
Taehyung smiles. "Ready?" He adjusts his grip on the knife.
The man smiles wolfishly. "Born ready."
Carefully, Taehyung slips the blade of the tool into the space between the door and door jamb. The hinges are on the outside, and it's a delicate line between making sure he cuts through and being subtle enough that the guard doesn't see anything. He gently does his work, holding his breath when the blade catches on metal. "Which side is the guard on?" Taehyung whispers quietly. All that's left to slice is the latch, and then a good push and they're out.
Wordlessly, the man points to the left side, by the handle.
Quickly, Taehyung slips the knife through the latch and side steps to the other side. His partner steps close, too close. "On three," Taehyung mouths, listening for footsteps.
"Fuck that." The man rolls his eyes.
With a loud laugh, Taehyung pushes the door down.
This is the part that makes or break an escape. There's a window right after a plan is initiated where all of the assumptions you've made are proven correct or incorrect, and anything could happen. Usually it's a disaster and the punches must be rolled with, but the man in the cell is out before Taehyung can blink. Taehyung gets his hands around the sides of the door, lowers it gently to the ground so as not to make a noise, and when he looks back the guard is sliding down the wall, unconscious and quiet. His airflow has been cut off, probably, but Taehyung can’t tell how bad it is because Galgaran skin is naturally that shade of purple.
"The fuck—" Taehyung starts, but the boy pushes past him towards the corner the guard is about to turn.
Galgarans are a strong bunch, and ruthless, but they're clearly not expecting a fight. Taehyung isn't sure whether this stranger is strong as hell or extremely well-trained, but no sooner has the shiny black of the Galgaran's boot come into view than the man is pulling the soldier into his space. Taehyung watches in awe as the man jabs at the soldier's throat, boxes her ears, and swipes her legs out from under her, making sure that her head slams on the floor as she drops.
Calmly, he reaches into her holster, pulls out her blaster, and points it at Taehyung.
Not at Taehyung. Slightly to the left of Taehyung. He feels the heat of the shoot as it passes his arm, and hears the drop of a body behind him. The third guard. Dead and taken care of.
"You could have killed me," Taehyung tells him, staring at the body on the ground.
"I'm not such a bad shot," the man counters, checking the blaster for it's make and model before going back to search the woman soldier.
"I'm..." Taehyung clears his throat. "I'm impressed and slightly aroused."
The stranger tuts, inspecting a knife from the woman's belt. "I don't fuck on the first date."
"That's disappointing." Taehyung pauses. "Second date, maybe?"
"Let's get out of this one first, buddy." He stands, dropping the knife in his pocket along with a few other things and resting the blaster against his shoulder. "We can talk about fun things later."
For the first time in Taehyung's entire life, things go smoothly. Taehyung drags the three bodies into the cell and the two of them lift the door back into place so nothing is jarringly wrong should anyone pass by, and then his partner says, "This way," and Taehyung follows dutifully.
Although the man said that he's only been on a fleet ship once, he knows his way around. It'd be easier if they also had the watch patterns, but beggars can't be chooser, and this is better than it could be. They look around corners and only get into a major scuffle once with a guard too hotheaded to think about calling for backup.
The stranger doesn't have a good concept of the back paths, another thing that would have been a nice inclusion in their adventure, they only have to blaster a handful of soldiers before Taehyung finds the maintenance ladders.
There are fewer workers up in the rafters, and it's only mildly dusty. They come across one worker patching up paneling on the western side, but the stranger leans down and whispers something in the Galgaran's ear and he lets them both pass as though he never saw them.
"You're like a lucky charm," Taehyung mutters, looking back over his shoulder to make sure the maintenance worker isn't going to betray them. All he sees is the Galgaran getting back to work.
"Hardly." The man pulls him along. "This way." A sharp left. "The hangar is close."
He's right. Taehyung can hear the hum of the ships, feel the change in the air, and it feels a bit like he's home, if home were dangerous enemy territory and Taehyung was running away from an army. "There will be more guards at the hangar." He looks around. "I need to find a control panel."
"What are you going to do, auto start my ship?" the stranger asks flatly, but he's the one who eventually finds the control panel and pushes Taehyung towards it.
From here, it's a simple, familiar process. Most large scale ships operate using the same basic systems, but Taehyung hasn't ever been captured by an actual military ship that isn't part of the Galactic Security Division and the GSD are predictable to a horrible, convenient fault.
It takes him an extra minute or two to get to what he needs to, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that the Galgarans will definitely have noticed their absence and will have most of their forces out patrolling the ship looking for them, which means they will be spread out more evenly and not condensed all in one place. It's a curse because they'll be very aware that stealing a ship is the only way to freedom.
However, if they don't realize that the stranger knows his way around, they won't be surprised to find them wandering around on the other side of the ship.
Taehyung grins in delight and types onto the screen.
The floor under their feet rumbles.
"What did you do?" the man asks in horror, white as a sheet. To be fair, a shaking ship is rather panic inducing when you're in space.
"I increased the pressure in one of the less important air chambers until it popped." Taehyung shuts the control panel. "Usually the space suits are located in that area, in case anyone needs to leave the ship to work on the hull or something." It's a perfectly viable escape route. Taehyung has done it himself plenty of times, but it would never work when a ship this big is after you, or when you're so far away from another planet, or when no one is out there covering your ass. Still, these soldiers seem to think Taehyung is an idiot, and an idiot might try it if he's desperate enough. "They'll think we tried to fiddle with it and it went wrong. Hopefully they reroute most of their troops that way."
The stranger looks at him appreciatively, and Taehyung won't pretend he doesn't enjoy the attention. "And you say you're a scavenger."
"I believe what I said is that I'm clever."
"Actually, I said that." The man walks back out to the rafters and motions for Taehyung to follow. "I shouldn't be surprised when I'm right."
"You sure are something," Taehyung tells him, whistling, before following him down the ladder towards the hangar.
The latch on the door to the hangar requires a key or a passcode, neither of which Taehyung has, so he takes out the buzz knife and steps forward.
"You can't just destroy everything, they'll hear you," the stranger chides.
"Okay, then, you get in," Taehyung snips back.
The man pulls a key card out of his pocket and waves it cheekily.
"I don't know if this partnership is going to work out," Taehyung tells him, petulant.
"What do you mean?" the man asks, eyes wide and innocent and full of shit. He waves the card over the key scanner and grins. "I'm your lucky charm." He opens the door.
No one is looking their way at the moment. The hangar is enormous, and the two of them could easily get by undetected if they play their cards right, simply because it's so huge. There are at least a hundred ships here of different shapes and sizes, from O4 fighter pilots to giant Pachelbel Cruisers. Taehyung scans the place and sees a couple of maintainers with clipboards overseeing the ships, and a handful of soldiers dressed in black and silver, complementing their lavender skin. Taehyung snorts. Galgar was always a vain kind of planet. Their uniforms were clearly designed rather painstakingly to be flattering. Taehyung won't complain.
"There," the man says suddenly. He points to a mid-sized vessel about three rows back, identifiably in worse condition than the pristine ships surrounding it. Taehyung can't tell its model from here, it's clearly been modified to some extent, but it's much bigger than the little one-person Tanker Taehyung has been flying for so long.
"We should have taken the soldier's uniforms," Taehyung says with a groan. Crossing open space would be much easier that way.
"Too late," says the man. "We don't look Galgaran in the least, so it'd be useless either way."
"That's easy for you to say," Taehyung hisses. "You're wearing black!" The man blends in better than Taehyung does in his red and dingy white.
"Stop complaining." The man exits the maintenance hallway without a word.
"Fuck you." Taehyung follows.
The stranger finds cover quickly behind a pile of spare scaffolding and raises the blaster. The nearest soldier is about 50 feet away. The only other guard standing between them and the well over 100 yards away. The first soldier is taken down with almost mechanical precision, quietly as he turns the corner, out of sight of the other.
Taehyung raises his eyebrows. "Done this before?"
"Want to see something fun?" the stranger asks, a strange glint in his eye.
"You can show off if you want, but I've got things to do." Taehyung looks at the nearest maintainer.
The man shrugs, aims, takes out the other soldier without pretense.
Taehyung pulls the man up from their hiding place. "Go prepare the ship." They still need to get the hangar door open.
"Aren't you worried I'll leave you?"
"If you do, I'll haunt your ass forever," Taehyung chirps.
With a shrug, the stranger takes off for his vessel.
The maintenance worker hears Taehyung before he sees him, but Taehyung is fast enough that it doesn't matter. He slips open the buzz knife and holds it just over the shoulder of the man's white coat. The fabric roasts a nice medium brown but it smells awful. Still, it gets the man to hold still, so Taehyung can bear it.
"Shhh." Casually, Taehyung reaches down and unclips the pager from the worker's belt. "Name?"
"Uh..." The maintenance worker panics, blank, when he can't remember. This is new to him, which means he's fairly trustworthy.
"Codename?" Taehyung asks instead.
"I..." His eyes flicker up to the overlook, but the hangar is so massive Taehyung doubts they're more than ants to whoever might be looking. That's what happens when you get a big head and build things for grandeur. Taehyung misses his Tanker. "O.Fen02," the worker says quietly.
Taehyung kisses him on the cheek. "Thank you! I owe you one!"
He races towards the ship, seeing the hatch is open and bolting inside. "How much longer?"
"Ready!" his temporary partner calls from far away.
Taehyung lifts the pager to his mouth. "Attention. This is O.Fen02 requesting clearance to launch for Axle 737." Everyone has an Axle 737.
There's a moment where Taehyung holds his breath and the line crackles with static.
"Reason for request of clearance?" someone asks over the device.
"Possible sighting of targets near the eastern hull. Request to further investigate."
There's quiet. "Clearance granted. Deviance from the path will result in your immediate disposal."
"Yessir." Taehyung runs to the cockpit and finds his partner sitting at the wheel. "We gotta go."
"They'll shoot us down once they realize we're not who we say we are," the man says immediately. In the distance the sound of the hangar door opening rumbles the ship. "Galgar isn't known for it's military, but even they'll know something's fishy." He gestures at the control panel. "Can you fly this?"
Taehyung looks at the controls, checks off points of familiarity, and another, and another, and then realizes what kind of ship this is. "This is a Castar BH17?" Only ambassadors of the Galgaran empire use ships like this. They're specialty made. Taehyung takes the seat as soon as the stranger stands, but his mouth is gaping like a fish. He's never seen one in the flesh, only specs. "Is this why they want you fucking dead?"
"It probably didn't help," the man says, irritated. "Can you fly it?"
"Fuck you, I can fly it." Taehyung slides his hands over the controls. The man's already unlocked it. The engine hums. When a gentle hand, Taehyung starts the thrusters and evens them out.
"The break sticks," the stranger warns him. He steps down onto the shooting platform. "Fly your ass off."
The hangar door isn't completely open when whoever is watching realizes that it's a Castar and not an Axel approaching the exit, and Taehyung speeds forward as soon as he sees the door start closing. It's the sounds of blasters not a minute later that cause him real anxiety. "How are you doing?" he calls down the man.
"Shut up and fly!" is the strangled response.
Behind them, a ship explodes and takes out a small batch of soldiers gathered around it. The man whoops in glee.
"Did you do that on purpose?" Taehyung asks.
"Fuck no." The man is ecstatic.
It strikes Taehyung as kind of anticlimactic, when they get through the hangar doors without even the possibility of missing their window. The Castar takes a battering and their shields are at great risk of crumbling, but Taehyung is welcomed back into the beautiful black of space and he's barely even sweaty.
"Warp!" the stranger calls.
"This thing can't warp!" Castars aren’t even meant for long-distance travel. They’re meant to travel between sister-planets.
"Yes, it fucking can! Red level, standard Altean mechanism." Taehyung sees it. A slapped-together mod, but effective enough. "Just go. I don't care where!"
"That's bad advice." Taehyung does it anyway.
There's a weird tingle when you enter lightspeed, like you lose feeling in your toes, but Taehyung has never minded it. It's not another five minutes before they're well out of range of any fighter pilots the Galgarans might send after them, if they even knew which direction to start looking.
"I love it when it's a good day," Taehyung sighs happily. "Thank Ulra." He looks at their navigations. They're off course if they want to head towards the planet Taehyung had planned, but that'd be an awful lot like backtracking. Taehyung does a scan of planets nearby and picks a non-hostile one he recognizes. The man did say he didn't care where.
"Hey." The man sticks his head up from the shooting platform. "Shoddy technique but not bad."
"I'm a wonderful pilot," Taehyung replies, grinning. "We made it, didn't we?"
"Yeah, we did." The man grins back. "My name is Jimin."