AN: Wow, this is a long one. But you know, even though the characters are a little OOC, I do like it. I like how it turned out, and I really do hope that you guys like it too.

Disclaimer: I do not own Starship. Starkid does.


Taz was a tough son of a bitch.

Ever since she had been little, Taz had been picking fights with the other children that had lived on her block, uncaring of age or gender, so long as they gave a good tussle for her to brag about later on that day to her brothers. The only daughter in a family of sons, she had learned early on how to throw and dodge a punch, both lessons coming at a price of tears and playful bruises. She had also been quick to learn how to hide and control her emotions, for although a well-placed sob or two could conjure up half a dozen protectors that wouldn't rest until the person who had started them were dead, at home, amongst her worse tormentors, they had only made the harassment worse. It was her brothers that had made her hard, and her parent's decision to only step in when things crosses that invisible line had only reinforced everything that she had learned.

It had been these lessons that had kept her from breaking down and screaming when the robots had strung her up like a piñata on her quinceañera and tore apart those same brothers right before her eyes.

It was Up, however, and his unorthodox method of training that had taken her hardness and given her the edge that she really needed to be tough.

Because Taz had been too young to join the Academy for another year, she had been placed into Up's care, mainly because she was too old to go into the already overcrowded orphanages and the only line of work that would have been open to her at the time would have been illegal. Also, considering the fact that Up had spent the last four years straight in space, Ranger regulation declared that he was long overdue for time spent at the desk. And since it had been deemed by many young ensigns that had come away from a confrontation with her with bruised bones and blacked eyes that he was the only one who could keep her out of trouble, for an entire year, Up had become Taz's guardian, protector, and under the table mentor.

During their training sessions, Up hadn't cared if the punch to the shoulder he had just delivered had turned her fingers numb and the flesh blue. As he had pointed out, a robot wouldn't, so why should he? When her vision had been blurry and her feet could hardly feel the ground below her, Up had just stood there and yelled at her to run another lap, reminding her all the while that, unless she proved to be the best damn Starship Ranger he had ever seen graduate from the Academy, he would make sure she never the outside of an accounting cubical. And every time she had fallen down, he had just offered his hand, told her to get back up, and had reminded her that, if she wanted to fight the robots, that she needed to be tough.

Eventually, she proved that she was tougher than anyone ever thought she could be.

When the other recruits had picked on her for being so small and liking books, she had refused to let them know that their words bothered her. Instead, with Up's help, she had chased them into the dumpster and had taught them to fear her name. When it had seemed like calculus was going to hold her back from graduating another year, she had swallowed her pride and gone to Up for help, working with him day and night until she finally passed her exam, overcoming the last hurtle between her education and finally being allowed to join the fight against the robots. When her first mission found her once again tied upside down by the robots she had been sent to destroy, instead of shuddering at just how similar the situation was to her nightmares, she had just slipped her extra knife free from her pocket and had destroyed them all.

As the battles grew bloodier and bloodier, the worse they had been since the initial beginning of the Robot Wars, she threw more and more of herself into the fight, uncaring of the scars her actions earned her so long as the battle was won. When she was promoted and reassigned to a new crew, she made sure that her reputation of a toaster killer preceded her, so much so that, soon, her name became the second most talked about, only beaten by Up's itself. And whenever it was clear that her current orders were no longer valid, she threw caution and chain-of-command to the wind, taking the blame for a messy victory that otherwise would have ended in a clean defeat until no other Commander would have her.

Up had welcomed her back with open arms, and although her reputation had still held true, the number of times she had been forced to undergo disciplinary action greatly decreased.

When Up had fallen from the Autobot's grip to the floor below, his limps twitching and his blood spreading from his two halves across the already slick floor, Taz had been the one to decimate every robot between her and her commander that dared to face her, eventually skidding to a halt by his side with a trail of sparking trash behind her. Tearing her clothes to shreds and using her fingers to close off any veins that she couldn't tie, Taz had been the one to sit there and attempt to slow the stream of blood as best as she could until help could arrive. Once the two of them had been picked up, once it had been revealed that Up had written her down as the one to make medical decisions for him should he be unable, although she knew he would hate her for it, she had been the one to allow Dr. Space-Claw to save Up's life.

Taz had been the first one to hold his robotic hand after he was out of surgery, had been the last to acknowledge two years later that Up had, in fact, gone soft, and had been the first to, privately, accept the fact that she was wrong, swallow her pride, and apologize.

Yes, Taz was a tough son of a bitch. Perhaps even the second toughest son of a bitch in the entire universe, beaten only by the renewed Commander Up. But standing there, wearing her wedding dress and waiting for the signal to be given for her to be taken to see her soon to be husband, Taz didn't feel like it. She felt sick, scared, and weak, nothing like any of the usual emotions she normally felt. Her hands were shaking, her knees were trembling, and although she would later deny it, a whimper kept forcing itself from between her lips as she whispered a prayer to a long dead god that she would soon wake up in her bunk on the ship.

Taz was tough, but the fact that she was being married off to a seventeen foot giant as part of a peace treaty was enough to scare even her.

It had started out simply enough. Six months ago, a small, primitive planet that had decided to remain neutral during the Robot Wars had somehow gotten a hold of various robotic technology, pieces that had been floating through the interplanetary black market despite the Galactic League of Extraterrestrial Exploration's best efforts to shut the traders downs. Empowered by the weapons that they had finally gain access too, the tribe that lived there had sent out a warning to the newest colony of humans that had settled on a friendly moon three planets away, threatening their destruction unless the people gave into the alien's demands. Despite the fact that the only weapons the tribe had were three lasers and a transport shuttle that couldn't even break the planet's orbit, G.L.E.E. had jumped into action, sending four ships and three hundred of the League's best Rangers to deal with the issue before it got out of hand.

And amongst that three hundred, placed in charge of the entire mission after their success on the Bug world, was Commander Up and the rest of his already legendary crew.

The moment they had touched down on the planet's surface, three days after Up's attempts at diplomacy had failed, Taz had decided that the eight of them would have been sufficient enough.

Despite the giant's overwhelming size and strength, their only weapons were swords and spears, tools that Taz had only read about in the fairy tales she had been so fond of when she had been little. Deadly in looks as the members of the tribe raised them above their heads, the metal polished to a shine so that it reflected the early morning sun, even Tootsie knew that they were no match for the lasers which, when set at 'pew,' could drive a beam of light right through their skulls. The tribe's numbers were low too, the planet's population having been decimated by generations of intertribal war that had only just been resolved by the death of the last member of the enemy clan. That, combined with the fact that the females of the race had flat out refused to engage in another war with peace just around the corner, had placed the alien's numbers at just over fifteen hundred.

The robots had had more, and these creatures were nothing more than flesh and blood, a statement that Taz quickly found that she enjoyed being true.

It only took moments for the battle to turn bloody, the chief rejecting Up's final offer of peace and friendship in favor of telling his men to charge. Soon, the tribe's warriors were falling left and right as their leather-like armor proved to be useless against the constant barrage of burning light beams, though it took more than just a few good hits to bring down each one. With their numbers quickly dwindling while the Rangers stood without a scratch, it had seemed as if their rushing line would break, forcing the aliens to reconsider what Up had offered them to save the lasts of their skins. In a way, for the twenty minutes that the fighting continued, Taz couldn't help but pity the idiots. They had brought it upon themselves, but still, even as she watched her fifteenth kill fall to his knees with a single hole between his eyes, the taste within her mouth turned sour as the slaughter continued.

For twenty minutes, the entire length of the fight, Taz had been sure that they were going to win. Until Dr. Space-Claw, the Commander of the entire League, who was supposed to be back on Earth, denying that he had had any hand in Junior's plot, landed in the middle of the battlefield and surrendered.

Although it took a while for the order to spread, soon enough the Rangers found themselves weaponless and seated on the ground, surrounded by giants as the chief of the tribe and Space-Claw chatted off to the side, their voice low but pleasant, as if they were friends of old. Although she had to guess, from the way they were both moving, it was a treaty meeting, where Space-Claw tried his best to gain a truce between their races without being forced to lose too much in the process. Her face warped from fury, feeling for the first time a defeat that had come from cowardice instead of too much spilt blood, it had only been Up's reassuring hand on her shoulder and Bug's incessant questions in her ears that had kept her from killing their commanding officer.

But only just.

In the end, after half a day's worth of wasted time spent talking instead of just beating the weakling into submission and heading home, the two leaders finally came to some sort of compromise. The conditions were simple. G.L.E.E. would be allowed to keep its colony on the other planet's moon so long as three very specific demands were met. Firstly, no Ranger would ever be allowed to set foot upon the tribe's planet again without express permission gained from the chief. All who disobeyed were forfeit to tribe punishment. Secondly, G.L.E.E. had to send the tribe tools that could be used to improve their stations in life, things like farming equipment and solar panels to help turn their harsh homeland into a more forgiving environment. And, thirdly, to ensure peaceful connections between the two races from that moment forwards, the strongest, toughest, and fiercest female warrior amongst the Rangers had to be left to become the chief's new bride.

Which was how Taz ended up in chains on the ground, watching as her struggling crew members were dragged by the other Rangers back to the ships so that they could leave her behind to be married.

That had been four hour ago.

And in the four hours that had since passed, the aliens had done nothing but torture her.

From the moment Taz had been handed over to the village women with the order to prepare her for the wedding, it had been one ceremonial event after another, her body no longer her own as she was passed like a toy from one woman to the next. For four hours they had cooed over her, alternating between discussing her 'child-like' size to loudly stating how beautiful of a wife she would be for their chief, no matter the fact that he was twelve feet taller than her. For four hours she had been washed, plucked at, dried, and doused in some oil that made her head swim with each breath, yet that softened her skin into a silky texture and that relaxed her muscles until they were almost useless. For four hours her hair had been pulled, twisted, and brushed, eventually ending up in a pile on top of her head that had been cemented in with some chemical that reminded her of February's overly strong hairspray. And for four hours she had been forced to drink cup after cup of some weird potion that, only after she had the sixth poured down her throat through gritted teeth, was she told was to help her conceive. After the forcing of the seventh resulted in a series of broken bones for the alien women when Taz finally managed to break free from one of their holds, they no longer tried to force her to drink the rest of the brew, deciding that enough was enough, and even the chief's wedding was no reason for them to get themselves killed.

Of course, the reason it took four hours was because she kept trying to escape, thus forcing the women to begin all over again once she was captured.

The first time she had almost made it too.

To be honest, she had been surprised that she had been able to make it as far as she had. Weaponless, defenseless, without food, water, shelter, and no means of procuring any of them, Taz's break for freedom had been more of a stalling technique than anything else, a hope that, if she could hold off the proceedings long enough, Up and the others would find a way to get her out of her mess, to rescue her and make this whole day nothing more than a bad memory. She had seen the way that they had fought to get free, even Megagirl doing her best to throw off the half dozen Rangers that had been ordered to force her back to the ship, and so there was no doubt in Taz's mind that they would come back for her.

So, the first moment she could, she ran.

Her guards had underestimated her, thinking that their superior size and strength could protect them from a little human female that barely came up to their knee. Using their relaxed sense of confidence against them, it had only taken the work of moments for her to turn, adrenaline giving her the strength to steal one of their swords, and sink it up to the hilt into the other's thigh, giving her the distraction she had so desperately needed to make her escape and run. However, everything had been against her. The chains that they had wrapped around her so they could lead her like a pet had been made to hold creatures much bigger than her, slowing her down with their oppressive weight as she tried to run. Although the battlefield that they had been on that morning had been flat and smooth, almost like a natural arena, the grounds surrounding the village were rough and twisted, littered with small hills and half covered holes that sought to trip and tangle her as she fled. And every time she thought that she would make it to the edge of the forest, where she could climb a tree, work out a way to unravel the metal links from around her skin, and figure out her next move, a hand would close around her waist or the back of her neck and carry her back to the village, returning her to her caretakers, all of which were finding the situation less and less amusing as the day went on.

Trice more she tried to escape, but each time she was less and less successful, for whatever was in the oil and in her drink had weakened her muscles, making each movement more and more difficult as her hyperactive mind struggled to even put one foot in front of the other.

And then, finally, after four hours of being tortured and tormented until she was at the end of her sanity, they crossed the line into the unforgivable.

They put her, Taz, the toughest son of a bitch G.L.E.E. had ever seen, into a dress.

Even with her mind as panicked and as empty of though as it was, giving her an insight into what February must have to deal with all the time, it was for this last heinous crime that she truly hated them.

That had been another half hour ago, when the eldest woman in the tribe, presumably the chief's mother, had locked her into the bedroom that Taz had to guess was the bridal suite, the old hag leaving her with the information that the wedding wouldn't be taking place until later that evening, when the three moons joined into one. Which, if Taz was correct in remembering the comparison of time between the alien's world and Earth, meant that she had little over two hours to find a way to save herself.

She started by throwing a tantrum.

Breaking things had always calmed her, the satisfaction of seeing something torn apart by her own hands normally overcoming the twisted fury that had set her off in the first place. Thankfully for her, the room that she had been placed in held no shortage of destroyable things, for, when the windows and door proved to just be too strong for her to break, she was able to turn her attention to the multiple clay pots that had been stacked in the corners, presumably filled with something that was to be used after the wedding ceremony. Soon enough, each one was shattered and scattered across the earthen floor, the largest of the pieces rucked away in the folds and ruffles of her dress in case she ever found the opportunity to stab something. Turning towards the rest of the room, it was with a systematic determiness that she forced her body to go through the exhausting motions of searching for something, anything, that she could use to help her situation. Hindered as she was by the drugs and the chains that moments ago had helped her pull the pots from the top of the piles to her own height, it was almost time for her to begin her walk down the aisle when she finally came to the conclusion that there was nothing there that could help her. Even at her strongest, after testing the edges of her clay knives and finding them dull, she wouldn't have been able to do much damage to the giants without the help of a gun.

If she wanted to get out of this mess, although she was loath to admit it, she would need Up to do it for her.

Perhaps he was already at the altar, Taz couldn't help but hope as her guards came to lead her away, each one careful to keep from getting too close while at the same time trying to act as if they were leading her instead of being led. It was, in her mind, the perfect plan. Up and the others would be waiting there, their phasers pulled and ready to fire the moment someone not of their crew moved a muscle. She would be freed, they would walk out the front door, perhaps killing some of them on the way out, and within a week the entire incident would be nothing more than a memory that she could use as an excuse to stab Krayonder.

In Taz's mind, it was the perfect plan. But as the wedding continued without a hitch and the alien that was leading the ceremony announced her and the chief officially wed by their species' laws, her perfect plan turned out to be nothing more than a vague idea that her desperate hope had forced her mind to create. Up and the others had abandoned her to her fate, and for the rest of her life she would be nothing more than the five foot wife of a seventeen foot giant, producing ten foot children that would probably kill her the moment they were born.

If the making of them didn't first.

"You are my wife now," the chief growled softly as the guards retreated down the hall, her chains wrapped around the palm of his hand as he bent down to steady her wavering form. "An honor you did not ask for, but one that you have received none the less." Pulling her into the waiting room, his large feet crushing the remains of the decorations she had destroyed earlier to dust without a second though, it was with what almost looked like a smile that he settled himself on the bed, using her chains to tug her closer to him. "A bride of peace between our two species, our children shall cement the bond and bring about an era of prosperity for us all." His large fingers fiddling with the flowing train of her dress, his eyes dark with desire, it was with a soft whisper that still made part of the room shake that he finished his little speech and reached out to make her his. "Just like Space-Claw promised, you are now mine little warrior."

"I don't think so," a familiar voice said steadily from behind the chief as the 'pew' of a zapper faded into the air, leaving behind the smell of scorched skin and the coppery tang of blood. His eyes wide, the only motion that the chief had time for was to reach back and gently touch the edges of the hole that had appeared within the back of his head before he fell, slumping to the ground in a puddle of blood and brain fragments, the only signs, beside the hole, that he had been injured. Taking a moment for herself to revel in the feel of the gore upon her arms and dress, it was with a hard won smile that Taz turned to face the man standing in the suddenly open window, his blue eyes piercing her own with a mixture of bloodlust and relief that they had made it on time.

A moment later Taz collapsed next to the corpse of her late husband, her legs finally giving out now that there was no longer a reason for her to stand. Up had come for her, and everything else was inconsequential.

"Megagirl, what's wrong with her," Up demanded briskly as he vaulted over the bed to reach her side, sweeping her-chains and all-into his arms so that she was off the floor and away from the slowly spreading circle of pink slime that was leaking out of the dead alien. His nose wrinkling as he caught a whiff of the oil that had been poured onto her, it was with a gagging cough that he adjusted her so that her hair was out of his face, shaking his head to clear it of the smell and its effects. "I don't know what they put on you Taz, but Dead God does it stink!"

"The lieutenant has been drugged," Megagirl declared a few minutes later, the loud screech that Tootsie had managed to muffle a bit by covering her mouth with his hat that she had admitted while scanning Taz still echoing throughout the room. "From what I have been able to obtain, the aliens of the tribe have forced her to drink copious amounts of slow-acting tranquilizers, as is tradition for this species, due to the fact that reproduction consists of the ritualistic cannibalization of the female's second set of heart, liver, and lungs to make room for the fetus, a process that is greatly simplified if there is no struggle. The substance in her hair is a non-toxic liquid incense common to this world that is used to promote feelings of relaxation before life altering events, such as war or birth. However, due to her diminished size, the lieutenant was overly affected by it. I would suggest, if we wish to increase our chances of survival, that one of us carries her back to the ship."

"Dude," Krayonder said from his position by the window, his mouth slightly open from awe. "I only caught about half of what you just said, and I understood even less, but dude, that sounded awesome."

"Nothing awesome about these monsters almost killing Taz candy-ass," Up growled as he twisted so that he could adjust his zapper without losing his hold upon her. "You three just remember the plan and everything will be fine. Now move out."

"Where are de others," Taz asked sleepily as she watched Tootsie and Krayonder climb up and over the windowsill, the tops of their heads disappearing as they made the eleven foot drop to the ground below.
"And how did jou open the window? How did jou even get here Up? Where were jou," Taz asked in quick succession, her mind breaking free from its clogged haze just long enough to demand the answers to her questions, though it quickly slipped back in as the drug whispered invitations of sleep to her. Watching as Megagirl quickly followed the two men, within moments of the order having been given it was just the two of them, he clutching her to his chest as if she was a treasure while it took all of her strength to not flop around like a ragdoll.

"Shush for a moment Taz," Up said not unkindly as he leaned out the window to look at the ground below, his eyes calculating and watching as his people took up their positions. "I'll answer everything once we're out of the village limits, but until then I need you to keep quiet for me sweetie. Can yah do that for me?" Then, without waiting for an answer, Up nodded at some signal that only he could see and threw Taz out the window.

It took every ounce of strength within her to keep from screaming, and even then she couldn't help the small squeak that escaped her lips when Megagirl caught her a moment later.

"Commander, I could carry her faster than you could, thus allowing for an even greater increase in our chances of surviving this mission. I could run ahead and-"

"No Megagirl, we're not splitting up on enemy territory," Up whispered softly as he took a quietly protesting Taz from the robot's arms, ignoring the woman's claims that she could, in fact, walk on her own two feet. "Besides, considering you're the only one who has any shots left, it would be suicide for the rest of us, because no matter how quickly you run ahead to get Taz to the ship, even you wouldn't be able to make it back to us in time to help if we got in trouble. No move out." Slightly raising his voice so that the other two members of the rescue party could hear him, it was with practiced ease that Megagirl took up the front of their triangle, Tootsie and Krayonder falling a few steps behind so that they could cover their backs. Sending her a look that cut off the rest of her protests, it was with a wave of his hand that Up sent them of their way, the team slowly beginning to weave its way through the safety of the shadows towards the woods that Taz had been trying for earlier that day.

Much to Taz's mixed annoyance and relief, the journey there, although long, was the most boring part of her entire day. Caught up in celebrating what the aliens believed was the wedding night of their chief, a night that they hoped would lead to the birth of a half-human, half-them infant that would lead their tribe to greatness, not a single guard had been posted around the boundaries of the village. Instead, every single member of the tribe had gathered in the same large hall that the wedding had taken place in, their voices loud and joyous as they partied. So, there was no one out on the streets to catch a glimpse of the fleeing Rangers or to hear the slight chinks of metal against metal as the chains jangled in time with Up's pace. By the time the villagers would finally realize that something was wrong, the four rescuers and their prize would be long gone.

For almost an hour Up forced the others to keep up their silence and pace after they had reached the cover of the trees, determined that more than enough space was put between them and any search parties that might be sent after them. However, not even the strongest and best trained Rangers could keep up the punishing speed that he had forcing them to walk at for long, so when it finally became clear that even Megagirl, the only full robot of their group and so the only one who needed no rest, was starting to unconsciously slow, it was with a quick bark of orders that the others set to work on creating cover that would blend with their surroundings, thankful that rest finally seemed to be in view. Working with an efficiency that amazed Taz, considering that the ones doing most of the work were Tootsie, Krayonder, and Megagirl, it was only minutes later that the five of them were settling themselves under the leafy roof, finally allowing themselves to relax in their semi-safe new home. Wrapping themselves in some of the blankets that they had brought with them, too tired to even eat, it was only moments later that Tootsie and Krayonder were asleep, their slight snores comforting in the darkness. Megagirl only waited long enough to use one of her lasers to break the clasps around Taz's wrists and ankles before she join the men, shutting herself down for the few hours Up had deemed it safe to rest in order to reserve her batteries.

Fighting with everything she had, Taz remained awake, her head resting against Up's chest as she tried to will the tips of her fingers to move. Finding that even that was beyond her ability, though her tongue was still free of the drug's effects, it was with slightly slurred speech that Taz once again began to question her savior.

"Where are de others," Taz quietly asked her commander, knowing full well that he was still wide awake. She had seen him like this before, and it wouldn't be until they were all safe on the starship that he would allow himself some rest, so what better moment to ask the questions that she had been wondering about all day. It helped too that the fog was finally beginning to clear from her mind, whatever effect the oil had had on her fading in the cool night's air. Talking forced her to focus, and the more she focused on something, the quicker the fog would leave, giving her mind even if her body was still out of her reach.

"The drop pod," Up grunted just as quietly as he slightly shifted her head, moving her just enough so that her chin wasn't digging into his chest before allowing his arms to embrace her, holding her close to him in a protective, almost possessive hug. "Well, February's still on the ship itself, but Bug and Specs are waiting another couple hour's run west for us to get back. We'll have to keep moving soon, but I figured another two or three hours here top-side won't hurt anyone too badly. Unless we're caught, then we'll just have to kill some more of those bastards." Shrugging as if the thought of more killing was no burden to him, which, Taz realized, it probably wasn't, for to Up any creature that had proven itself hostile to the human race was more than dead in his mind, it was with a sigh that waited for her next question, allowing her to lead their conversation. "Oh," he said quickly, just as she was opening her mouth to ask her next inquiry, "we had Megagirl blast open the window. Just so you know."

"How did jou get here Up," Taz asked after sticking her tongue out at the older man, disappointed with the fact that it was both too dark for him to see it and that she couldn't punch him like usual. "The last I saw, all of jou were being dragged back onto de ship. Plus, jou were given orders to leave me. So how…" Allowing her voice to trail off into silence, it was a long moment before Up found the words to answer her.

"Do you really think I'd follow an order that might get you hurt Taz," Up said softly, his voice gentle as he tightened his hold around her. "After we were forced onto one of the ships, we were put under lockdown until we were well on our way back to Earth. Stupid idiots locked us in a room together though, so we had some time to plan and figure things out. February distracted Commander Goldstone, you remember her, by forcing her into a makeover while the rest of us 'convinced' the rest of the crew to help us. It wasn't that hard, considering how angry everyone else was that we just gave up like that. Plus, everyone either fears or respects yah Taz, so they were happy enough to let us go, especially since it saved them a few broken noses. Gave us back our weapons and everything. No zapper refills though, all of those were used up in the battle. So, we came on down with half-loaded guns, fought our way through hoards of hostile flora and fauna, and came to get yah." One of his hands moved slightly so that it could play with the small curls that had fallen from the others and that now rested against the back of her neck as he talked, sending shivers down her spine as he did so. "I'm just glad that we made it in time."

"Jou almost didn't," Taz replied with a small shudder, her muscles tensing as she remembered the fate that she had just been saved from. "Dough," she said with a wiry grin and a slightly bitter tone, "jou did come too late to keep me from getting married. It's going to have to go in my records that I'm a widow."

"Better a widow then a widower," Up said with a quiet chuckle, the teasing in his tone showing her just how relieved he was that they had managed to reach her before the worse had happened. "Besides," he said with an airy tone, one of his hands leaving her waist to circle in the air, "you can always tell people that you killed your husband because he annoyed you, making you seem even tougher than before."

"Or that my loco commander decided dat he wasn't good enough for me, so jou killed him so dat jou could keep me for jourself," Taz replied, though her playful words were twisted by the yawn that forced itself between her lips.

"Go to sleep Taz," Up ordered, knowing that he would be met with resistance if he said it as a suggestion. "I'll wake you when we're going to start moving again."

"Jou promise," Taz asked sleepily as she shifted herself into a more comfortable position against him, not even realizing that she had regained some small measure of control over her muscles in her weariness.

"Course I will," Up promised even as Taz's breathing slowed into the rhythmic pattern of someone asleep, her mind too far gone to hear his quiet promise. Glancing out through the small window that had been built into their shelter for lookout purposes, Up decided that he would allow his people another hour of sleep before he forced them awake to continue their journey back to the drop pod, where Specs and Bug were waiting with guns, medical supplies, and an engine ready to take off them moment they were on it. Of course, all of them would be in trouble for having disobeyed a direct order from Space-Claw, but to be honest, Up wasn't too worried. None of the rangers were happy with what their leader had decided to do, and there had already been plans amongst the other commanders that had come on the mission to call together the Galactic League of Extraterrestrial Exploration to discuss Space-Claw's decisions and decide whether or not he was still fit to lead them when they had left in the drop pod. If things went according to how Up hoped they would, which seemed quite likely, Space-Claw would soon be replaced with someone more suited to their peace-time lifestyle, someone who would overlook their transgressions in favor of forgetting the entire thing.

If not, the entire crew had known exactly what they were getting into and were more than ready to steal their ship the moment they reached Earth and head out into the depths of space to find a place where the eight of them could live without fear of being prosecuted for saving their lieutenant and friend.

"I'm glad you're safe Taz," Up whispered quietly as he pressed a gentle kiss against her forehead, his body relaxing against the wooden pole that he was sitting against despite his best efforts to remain alert. For the last six and a half hours he had been pushing himself harder than he had ever thought he could, leading the way they fought for every foot that would bring him closer to the small Hispanic woman who was asleep in his arms. His every though and action had been directed towards figuring out to avoid losing her, and now that his mission had been completed he was exhausted. Pinching his cheek with his robotic hand to drive away the desire to sleep, it was with a slight shake of his head that Up turned his gaze to the small, misshapen window that was their only way of knowing what was going on outside. If he held his head in just the right way he could see the moons through a gap in the foliage above, their celestial dance across the heavens keeping time for him.

In another hour they would continue their desperate flee to the drop pod, a journey that, if they were successful, would begin a time of uncertainty as they waited to see what their place in the universe would be, whether they would be heroes to be praised or criminals to be brought to justice. But for that hour, with the woman he secretly loved asleep in his arms and some of the members of his family sleeping around him, the rest waiting for their return, Up couldn't care.

For that one hour, Up, the toughest son of a bitch G.L.E.E. had ever known, someone even tougher than Taz herself, was at peace.