01 | OUT THE AIRLOCK
Lights were out again. Great.
It was completely dark. Pitch black. Even in the velvet gloom, only the dim glimmers of various faulty battery-powered buttons and screens illuminated the cold space around him. Blinded by the darkness, it was almost impossible to complete any set of tasks.
Red, blue...yellow, pink.
Jeongguk heaved out a disheartened sigh and nudged the wall of his cheek with his tongue. He could not rewire these daft multi-coloured wires. His hands were far too jittery, just like his fluttering heart.
Discouraged, he let them fall limp out the socket in the wall. The lights needed to be fixed before he could continue reconnecting the wires, which was already quite suspect by the way he left them undone.
Heart heavy in his chest, he felt along the steel wall. He strained his eyes peering into the gloom, staggering down the hallway until he arrived at Electrical. Last time, he looked ahead when headed towards Reactor, but this time he opted to look downcast, because he had previously stumbled over someone’s dead body. How clumsy of him?
And as if that had not been traumatic enough, the rest of his fellow Crewmates had already jumped on the wagon of ‘send Jeongguk out of the airlock!’, because he had somehow missed the body, despite being right above it.
He was a lone wolf, one could say. And always stayed off alone to speed-run his tasks, which was not the greatest idea exactly. Preferably, he should have grouped with someone else since it was quite dangerous to wander solo on this ship, The Skeld, especially after the last body had been reported—and everyone was quite wary of him, too. Well, everyone except his fellow green Crewmate.
“There you are! I thought I’d lost my purple little buddy.” A deep and sonorous voice suddenly echoed behind him. Jeongguk shrieked with sheer fright and bumped into the solid wall beside him.
“F—G-Gosh! Taehyung, y-you startled me,” Jeongguk, the purple Crewmate, hiccupped, and tittered after he regulated his heart and breathing pattern, nervously.
“Ah, sorry. I worried the worst happened to you when I couldn’t find you in Admin, where I’d left you. Glad to see you’re still okay.” There was a guttural chuckle as Taehyung emerged from the shadows and placed a heavy hand on Jeongguk’s shoulder.
“Y-Yeah. I forgot I even had a task in Storage,” Jeongguk let a short-lived giggle escape his mouth, but it was caught in his throat after he realized just how suspicious he sounded. “I-I swear! I’m just bad at remembering where all my tasks are.”
“I know, I know. I didn’t think you were lying,” Taehyung reassured good-naturedly, giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze as he glanced down the dark and eerie hallway. “Let’s check out Electrical together. Someone should’ve turned the lights on by now, I think something must’ve happened.”
“That sounds good!” Jeongguk piped, “I was just about to check it out myself—”
“Don’t.” Taehyung gnashed out through his teeth, a growl rumbling in the hollow of his throat. His voice was as serious as the Grim Reaper’s voice, dark and stern.
“I—what?” Jeongguk spluttered as a plethora of chills ran down his spine.
Taehyung shook his head and pulled Jeongguk towards him by his narrow wrist. “Don’t ever venture off on you own,” he affirmed. “Especially not to Electrical. Stick with me and stay where I put you when I do tasks in other rooms, okay?”
Jeongguk grinned lopsidedly at his tone, he sounded like an owner who just disciplined their untrained dog. How ironic? Regardless, he followed after his friend in the darkness, one short step away.
As they neared Electrical, a stench as rancid as metallic sewage wafted through the air and into their helmets, the smell became more and more apparent as they advanced forward. It was a familiar malodour, one everyone on this dreaded ship had encountered at some point before.
Struck with a sudden onset of terror, Jeongguk stopped dead in his tracks and clutched Taehyung’s bicep tightly, pulling him back as well.
“W-Wait. It smells—someone’s dead in there,” Jeongguk whispered biting his lip, whipping his head around, high on alert. The inner corners of his eyes drew up. “The Imposter might still be nearby...”
Taehyung glanced behind them, but shook his head. “It’s okay. I don’t think the Imposter would 1v2. Let’s just find the body and report it to the others and discuss it,” he suggested. That sounded quite reasonable. Yeah.
The honey-toned manner in which Taehyung spoke sent ease through Jeongguk’s pulsing veins, but it also shot an abundant amount of adrenaline through his body by how apathetic he seemed upon discovering yet another unfortunate homicide.
With some hesitance, he acquiesced and followed Taehyung into the room that always seemed darker than the rest of the ship.
Blood. Crimson. It was splattered everywhere.
Even in the darkest corner of the Electrical Room, the sheer gore was evident. On the hard, cold, floor laid the yellow lower half of Jimin’s body, their now deceased friend. The remains of his body and the shredded yellow of his space suit drowned in a pool of his own delightful gore, which led from the light box to the vent in the corner. Poor guy must have tried to fix the sabotaged lights, and at the cost of his own life.
Jeongguk gasped and tightened his grasp on Taehyung, pressing himself into his side, hiding his pained face against his chest. Taehyung patted his back and whispered words of comfort into his ears. He pulled back slightly, stepped over the remains of Jimin, and flicked on all the lights. Jeongguk winced at the flickering overhead lights.
“Aish. Poor Chim...he was a good one,” Taehyung murmured as he felt around his green astronaut suit, searching for the little communication device in his pockets. Once found, he flicked it open and pressed the red button that notified the rest of the Crewmates. He held down the button and raised it up to his helmet. “Check in, check in. Jimin’s body is at Electrical. Everyone, meet at Cafeteria to discuss. Over.”
Now, there were only four Crewmates remaining from the seven that were on the spaceship.
When he looked over at Jeongguk, he noticed that the younger’s doe-like eyes were riveted on the carnage of his best friend. His face was pale behind the visor of his helmet, paler than ever before.
“I...I think I’m going to be sick.” He croaked weakly, leaning against the steel wall for support. His legs felt like jelly, wobbly and unstable, so he slid down against the wall’s surface and sat on the floor. After all the pervious bodies, the others had built up a tolerance, but he still became faint at the mere sight of blood.
Taehyung kneeled down beside him and placed a hand on either side of his helmet. “Hey, hey. It’s going to be okay, alright? I won’t let anything happen to my purple little buddy,” he cooed, staring directly into his big, innocent, glossy eyes. “If you lean on me, do you think you could walk?”
Jeongguk nodded slowly as he was helped up to his aching feet. He leaned against Taehyung’s strong body as they staggered up to the Cafeteria, which was along the hallway to Electrical, through Storage, and up pass Admin room.
Yoongi and Hoseok were already present, seated on opposite end of the main blue table at the center of the spacious room.
They did not like each other. In fact, they loathed each other. Well, that sort of strayed from the truth. They liked each other well enough not to kill one another, but they always got into heated debates about who the Imposters were. They wove together theories that never directed to the correct intruders and made outlandish connections that Jeongguk honestly could not follow on, even on his best days.
Taehyung helped Jeongguk sit down at the matte blue table in the center of the room and walked around the circular table to sit down beside Hoseok on the opposite side. Jeongguk tilted his head in confusion, quirking a brow. Usually, Taehyung would have taken up the seat beside him during lunch or discussions.
A foreboding pang coiled in the pit of his tummy. Had he scared away his only remaining friend? Admittedly, he did look quite suspicious, he could not blame him for thinking so, especially since he found him so close to the body. ‘If I were him, I’d sus me too...’ He thought.
Jeongguk opened his mouth to defend himself, but instead he choked on a gasp when all the doors to the Cafeteria slammed shut. It too shocked Yoongi, whose head shot up from the sudden ruckus.
“What the fuck—”
“There’s only four of us left, Yoonie.” Hoseok chimed smoothly with the slightest undercurrent of a grin. Yoongi’s head whipped around towards him, and horror slowly crept across his cat-like face.
“What do you mean?” Yoongi snarled, “Wait—there’s still two Imposters, aren’t there? Joon and Jin weren’t—”
“No, they weren’t,” Hoseok interjected with an ear-to-ear grin. What happened to their symbol of hope? “You were right about them. Just like you were right about a lot of things. Honestly, it’s a shame you always look too sus for anyone to take you seriously.”
“If there are two then—shit!” Yoongi leapt to his feet, but there was nowhere he could go. He could not escape. The doors were all shut. “Which one of you are the Imposters, huh? I know you’re one of them Seok, who’s your partner? It’s you, isn’t it, Taehyung?”
Jeongguk’s fractured heart sank to the bottom of his stomach. He looked over at Taehyung slowly, eyes widened with disbelief. ‘It couldn’t be him, it’s not. No. Not him, right?’
They had vouched for one another the entire trip, since the day they landed on Planet Plous. Taehyung had saved him from being voted off, sent out of the airlock, multiple times. He was the only one who believed in his innocence. Even after he was found with the pervious bodies.
‘Probably because he killed them!’ His conscience intervened. Jeongguk shook his head. ′No, no. Taehyung was innocent! He had to be.′
“It can’t be Tae.” Jeongguk felt the callous hands of anxiety coil around his throat. “H-He was with me in Admin. We were only separated for a few minutes—”
“Yeah, yeah. How long do you think it takes for them to murder, Jeongguk? We know they’ve made use of the vents in this godforsaken ship!” Yoongi seethed, “He had you wrapped around his finger—marinated you. Used you as a convenient alibi. It’s all so obvious now. They just saved us to eat last—”
“Shut up!” Taehyung berated, orotund. A flint had sparked a flame on the gasoline within him and it was evident in his almond eyes. He shot Hoseok a glare sharper than any dagger. “Keep yours quiet or my fangs might just find themselves in his throat.”
Fresh tears accumulated in the corners of Jeongguk’s eyes, some spilling over his waterline and running down his rosy cheeks. He caved into himself, balling his fists in his purple suit. “A-Are you going to e-eat us?” He stammered, feeling his wet eyelashes kiss upon his upper cheekbones.
Laughter ruptured through Hoseok’s throat while Taehyung remained dead silent beside him, shifting uncomfortably.
“If we wanted to kill you, we could’ve ages ago,” Hoseok snickered. “I could’ve snapped Yoongi’s precious neck a few minutes ago in Med-bay. Which, by the way, nice scan. Great to know that you’re innocent.” He laughed smugly.
The scowl engraved onto Yoongi’s face deepened, his nails burrowed into his palms which were clenched tightly at his sides. He looked just about ready to break out into a brawl. Jeongguk wished he could look as brave as he did, instead it felt as though he and the rest of the ship were falling out of place, floating carelessly into outer space.
“What are you going to do with us then?” Yoongi narrowed his feline eyes which burned with fury, there was only a slight waver in his voice.
Hoseok glanced over at Taehyung and rose a brow. Taehyung leaned back in his chair and gave him a small nod.
“The rest of your crew weren’t eaten. We don’t kill for the nourishment. In fact, we can live off the same crap you two do. This is a rite of passage for our kind. When we come of age, it’s tradition for two of us to infiltrate one of your kinds’ ships and, well, take them all out. The two surviving Crewmates are trophies, of sorts.”
Jeongguk’s blood chilled and left his face as he listened with rapt attention. This was all a game to them. A challenge. A sick, twisted game and somehow both he and Yoongi were the rewards...? All of his closest friends had perished for coming of age festivities. Pathetic.
“Why...why us?” Yoongi whispered, finally crumbling.
Hoseok stood up and strolled towards him, “Because, I like you.” He shrugged, “And ’sides, you were the biggest challenge on this ship—it’s more impressive to bring you home than some worthless sheep who followed the crowd’s vote.”
Yoongi stepped back, but Hoseok quickly pushed him against the wall, his black helmet bouncing against the metal with a mighty clink. The astronaut in the bright red suit leaned down and whispered something to him, something that was incoherent to anyone else. Jeongguk wanted to hear, but tore his gaze away when he felt a familiar hand of calculated pressure placed on his shoulder.
Startled, he scrambled backwards off the chair and collapsed onto the cold concrete floor. “G-Get away from me!” He blustered, cowering back in fear as he stared up at Taehyung’s transparent visor in the glare of the lights. “Y-You killed Namjoonie-hyung, didn’t you? You’re a monster—”
Slow and careful, Taehyung kneeled down before him, but it caught the smaller boy off-guard. The gesture reminded him of all the times he had done it in the past. All the times Taehyung had helped him complete his tasks or accompanied him around the ship to make sure he was safe. Had any of those moments even mattered? Taehyung being happy to greet him in the mornings? That almost-kiss behind that humongous boulder in the snow field? Clearly not.
Hot tears welled up in the corners of his eyes again. Chocking on his words, he opted to hang his head low instead, especially as he had been pulled into a familiar embrace. A couple sobs spewed his swollen doll-lips as he felt a hand rub up and down his back soothingly.
“I’ll never hurt you.” Taehyung whispered. Just then, it struck Jeongguk just how trustworthy he seemed. Despite everything that he had just learned—witnessed, some part of him still unwaveringly trusted that warm and cosy voice, that deep timbre which gave him a false sense of security. He shook his head in disbelief and tried to stray away again, but the hold on him was too strong. Ultimately, he gave up and an untampered anger flared under his ivory skin at how weak he was.
Was he all but a puny human to manipulate?
“J-Just kill me,” Jeongguk spat bitterly. Tears continued to roll down his exquisite face as blotches of rosy red hues stained the tip of his cute button nose and cheeks. “I’m n-not your...your prize. I’ll never be.”
The edges of Taehyung’s thick eyebrows drew together and a crestfallen scowl formed on his plump lips. In his peripheral view, all he could see was long curly stands of black hair, but through the dark locks he saw Jeongguk’s saddened face.
For some reason, Taehyung looked sad too. But why did he even remotely have such an expression on his angular face after all that he had done? It was unfair that he guilt-tripped Jeongguk into thinking all of this was his fault, made his heart clench in the carven of his chest as though a vice was wrapped around it.
Fuck. Jeongguk had harboured feelings since day one and now on...whatever today was, Taehyung had practically become his rock. He had become his reason to suit up and do mundane tasks every day. Even when they had discovered the last three corpses, he had not felt afraid. Well, as long as Taehyung was by his side he did not.
To him, Taehyung was un-killable. Never once had he shown a single ounce of fear, well except that one time he nearly lost Jeongguk in the darkness by the snowmen on Polus, but beside all that, he made him feel brave too.
But now, all that made sense. While the conflicting thoughts and feelings in his chest made less sense.
Taehyung inhaled deeply and fogged up the inside of his helmet when he exhaled, “I picked you because you’re...” He hesitated, pursing his lips. It was like he could not muster any words, like he could not think of any word.
With the quiet hush surrounding them, Jeongguk stared at him incredulously and then let out a laugh which sounded more like a sob than anything else.
“You can’t think of anything?” He queried, the words muffled.
Taehyung frowned, gulping as he shook his head. “Not like that. On my planet, we don’t have a term for it. You earthlings call it ‘love’, but the word seems so...insufficient. Besides, our species don’t have the same emotional capacities as you earthlings.”
Love. Sounds like utter bullshit.
“Yeah right. I’m just an easy target, aren’t I?” Jeongguk scoffed.
“I mean, your self-preservation instincts are pretty non-existent. I could’ve picked anyone though, and you’re the one I wanted to take back with me.” Taehyung explained. “I’d never want to hurt you, Gguk-ah. Couldn’t imagine a life without my purple little buddy.”
On the other side of the tension filled room, Yoongi and Hoseok argued, bickering as usual. It almost felt like every other day. Odd enough, it felt like...business as usual—probably what the Imposters aimed for from the very start.
They had made the other three Crewmates distant and distrustful of both Yoongi and Jeongguk in order to better manipulate them now. To make them dependent. Nothing made sense anymore except for Taehyung’s words, which had always made sense somehow.
“I-I’m scared...” Jeongguk admitted in a small airy voice, looking up at Taehyung with big glossy doe-eyes.
“I know, but I promise nothing will ever harm you again.” Taehyung nodded, looking directly into his eyes. The corners of his plump lips curled up into a box-like grin, which Jeongguk reciprocated with a bunny-like smile. “It’ll be just you and I.”
Just the two of them. Forever.
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