Fandom: MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy
Rating: General (but starting to get a little creepier)
Characters/Pairing: Peter&Rocket; Tony/Pepper
Summary: Peter's trying to figure out how to be a leader. He decides that breaking into the Avengers' base of operations is a good place to start.
Disclaimer: None of this is mine.
Other disclaimer: Well, you knew I couldn't put my name on it without tormenting at least one of the characters a little bit.
Also, I finally remembered to link up the chapters, so check the buttons at the bottom of each entry if you'd like to read it all at once. It's been a really long time since I posted a chaptered fic!
Rocket had stopped thinking in words. He had never been taught a native language of his own; his makers had managed to connect his translator directly to his brain so that any natural sound he produced would be interpreted and transformed for the comprehension of listeners. He didn’t need his own ideas to be interpreted, but he had grown accustomed to the structure of linguistic thought patterns balancing his instincts. The raw images and sensations flashing through his mind now were an uncomfortable reminder of the life he had lived before communication.
He judged that he had less than a minute before he was spotted by the man and woman who had just come in. Unable to finish the job on himself, he hurriedly slid the chip back into its slot in his neck and snipped off the wire which he had wound around one of the studs in his back.
The first time he had ever spoken, it had been to ask the makers why they were doing this to him. They had erupted into cheers, slapping each other on the back and noting the date and time of their success, and he thought that they were celebrating his pain. It was not the first instance of that particular misunderstanding; he always seemed to be in pain when they were celebrating.
Fighting to stay focused on the present, he sized up the room as much as possible from his current hiding spot behind the tool cabinet. He couldn’t escape back to the wall unseen by retracing his steps, but there was another route with minimal exposure that seemed promising if only the two humans would get away from the control panel. Maybe a diversion was in order.
Nobody had ever answered his question about why they were doing this to him. Most of them didn’t talk to him at all, except during routine vocabulary tests or to collect response data. There was one exception, a middle-aged man who would murmur reassurances and stroke the fur between his ears during and after experiments. When Rocket was immobilized (or, on one memorable occasion, when his arms had been amputated), he would feed him by hand, calling him a good boy, telling him everything was okay.
None of the armor pieces or gadgets in the corner looked fit to use at the moment, but they were incidentally hooked up to a secondary power source which terminated at the tool cabinet. In seconds, everything was turned on, emitting some glowing and whirring which would have to draw the attention of the man and woman, thereby clearing a path to freedom.
Everything was never okay. Rocket didn’t want to be a good boy. Time and again, he asked himself why he had meekly accepted bits of fruit and processed meat and that bland brown animal chow instead of biting off the bastard’s fingers when he had the chance. What was there to be afraid of? Did they somehow program the resistance out of him, or was he just too desperate to give up the sound of lies told in a gentle voice and the comfort of a hand touching him without a rubber glove?
He heard exclamations from the other side of the room, then hurried footsteps. Hard slippery floor under his four paws, Rocket ran.
“Seal the room,” she said.
Without questioning her, he commanded, “Lockdown Alpha Twenty-Two,” and she heard the unseen mechanisms click into place. In the hush that followed, the soft scrabbling in the wall behind the control panel was clear as a bell.
They looked at each other, Tony raising an eyebrow in amusement. With exaggerated caution, he slipped a single armored glove onto his right hand and let it shine a beam of light into the hole in the wall, and Pepper, no longer nervous but immensely curious, came up beside him and looked in.
When she saw the light reflected in two bright little eyes peering out of a furry mask, her first reaction was a startled laugh, followed by a longer, more earnest one. “A raccoon! So we really are camping.”
Tony grinned back at her, but quickly became serious. “I’d still love to know how one little garbage dweller managed to chew on exactly the right cables to redirect the power currents in here.”
“Not to mention that if it crawled up through the walls, there must be an unacceptably large exterior crack at ground level.” She considered. “And that might go a long way toward explaining how the electricity was cut. Let’s go look. And get the critter out, we can release him on the way.”
It was, Pepper couldn’t help noticing, rather amusing to watch an egomaniacal superhero groping around in a hole in the wall to try to catch a stray animal without hurting it. The lockdown had closed off whatever tunnel the raccoon had come through to get in, but the cavity that remained was big enough to allow it to shrink against the wall just out of the reach of Tony’s gauntlet.
Finally, she took pity on him. “Let me try.” She found a candy bar in a nearby drawer - there were stashes everywhere - unwrapped it, and waved it around at the opening of the hole. “Stop hovering,” she told Tony, “you’re scaring it.” He straightened and crossed his arms, but in the few seconds that her attention had been diverted from the hole, a set of tiny sharp teeth bypassed the lure entirely and closed down on her hand.
She yelped and dropped the candy, and before she even had time to look at the shallow punctures on her hand, Tony had fired a short blast into the hole and there was the sound of a soft object hitting the floor.
Pepper glared at him. “If you killed that innocent creature just for reacting naturally to being cornered, I am signing you up for more therapy than you can fit into your schedule even after you quit going to--”
“Relax, your authentic wildlife encounter is just knocked out.” He reached into the hole again. “You can forget about releasing him until you’re both tested for rabies, though. I’ll still love you either way but I can’t have a rabid executive officer in my employ.”
“That’s ridiculous. Obviously it’s not ra…” She trailed off when she saw what he had just pulled out of the wall. “Oh my god.”
The animal that they had been calling a raccoon, hanging limp in Tony’s hands, was no urban scavenger. Someone had surgically modified its skeletal anatomy, elongating the body and limbs and adjusting the posture so that it was arranged bipedally. Signs of the operations were showing in the metal studs and scarring on its back and chest, and the poor creature had even been dressed in a pair of little pants.
“What kind of monster…” Pepper breathed.
Tony shook his head, looking grave. “Dark side of scientific progress. I condemned my share of mice in school, but I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“Can you find out where it came from?”
“I don’t know, but that’s suddenly become my top priority. This thing didn’t end up here by accident. Either it’s programmed for some specific function, or it was planted here to distract us.”
Pepper didn’t like the sound of that. “Meaning it might be about to detonate, or…”