Fandom: MCU/Guardians of the Galaxy
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.
“Play it again,” Tony commanded, and the image on the screen returned to the beginning of the clip for the fourth time.
The footage consisted of one heavily muscled male humanoid delivering an angry monologue to the camera. The shadowy backdrop hadn’t given them any clues as to his origin, and none of the records that they had from SHIELD or Tony’s private files had contained a probable match to his species. The content of his speech didn’t seem like it would be any more revealing, but JARVIS had managed an educated guess for a few words based on inflection and repetition, and deciphering the rest, he said, was just a matter of context.
“Alright,” said Tony, speaking over the guttural sound of the messenger’s voice as he began pacing in front of the screen, “so this first part is just the how-do-you-do, right?”
“In a manner of speaking,” JARVIS replied. “He’s demanding our attention. I would call it equal parts salutation and threat.”
“Well, that escalated quickly.”
Pepper shot him a glare, but directed her question at JARVIS. “When he references the Revenge Warriors, do you think that’s his own people, or does he know about the Avengers?”
“It appears to be the latter, as he doesn’t speak of himself until the next segment.” The video skipped backward to repeat a single syllable several times. “My analysis of this word ‘Drax’ and his posture and tone as he states it suggests that it’s his own name, and this phrase that follows is a personal title.”
Tony whirled around mid-stride. “That phrase that you said meant ‘One Who Annihilates’?”
“Yes. Or ‘the Destroyer’, if you would prefer brevity.”
Pepper sat back wearily into a chair that rolled her a little farther from the display. “And he works for someone called ‘Master of the Stars’. This is not promising.”
JARVIS continued, “The rest is fairly straightforward. He tells us to open our doors and admit their agents, threat implied if we refuse, negotiations possible, threat, threat, they are very powerful, exeunt.”
Tony nodded, more pensive than alarmed. The man-vs.-nature debacle of the past few hours was all well and good, but now he was in his own territory: if a macho from space wanted a pissing contest, he was going to get one. “Do a search on Asgard, Chitauri, Kree, any kind of alien encounters. We’re looking for mentions of a Master of the Stars, or any other way the same thing could be phrased.”
In less than a minute they had JARVIS’s response: “The only connections I have found are tenuous at best. It may be that the title simply references an individual without a galactically known reputation. However, there are certain religious texts containing some vaguely-worded prayers of worship to a stellar lord or master. I would not yet rule them out.”
Pepper released a dry chuckle. “In other words, he’s either a no-name or a god.”
“Or anywhere between, Miss Potts.”
Tony crossed his arms and stroked his chin. “But we’re not dealing with Master of the Stars. We’re dealing with his vlogger.” He gestured at the video, which he had paused at a still frame which he thought made the messenger look comically stupid. “Unless they squeezed five hundred Drax the Annihilators into that little ship, those threats aren’t looking so top drawer.”
“Five hundred Draxes or one powerful missile,” Pepper corrected him.
“If they’ve got one of those, they haven’t used it, which brings us to a burning question which I don’t recall this crypto-rant addressing even once: what do they want?”
“That’s true,” Pepper mused. “I assumed they would be after the raccoon, but they didn’t even mention it.”
There were a lot of reasons that they might not have mentioned the raccoon, but Tony’s prevailing theory, as he explained to Pepper and JARVIS, was that its brain had been tampered with in addition to its body. It could have been effectively programmed with a task to perform in Stark Tower, which Tony and Pepper had interrupted when they found it in the control room. Interpreting its disappearance as failure, the raccoon’s controllers had abandoned it and were now attempting a new plan.
Plainly disgusted but not to be taken off track, Pepper asked, “What about your elevator shaft guy? It doesn’t make sense to send both of them in at the same time.”
“He might not even be with them. It looked like the ship picked him up against his will.”
The debate went on until Pepper chanced to look at a clock. She groaned. Tony seemed to view sleep as optional and JARVIS was an artificial intelligence system, so it was really up to her to keep track of the time, and she hadn’t been. “How are we going to respond?” she asked, hoping to speed things up.
“We’re going to stall,” Tony replied immediately. “Bruce is on his way. I’ll do an evite for everyone else. Just as a courtesy. We won’t actually need them.”
“Hey, you don’t have to worry. I’m not putting your pet skyscraper at risk again. If it turns out we need to assemble, we can do it fast.” He pulled a chair over to hers, sat down in it, and leaned in close, elbows on his knees. “But, for you, can I suggest, I think, for now, I don’t want you to think, but, I--”
“You want me to get out of the tower?”
He put his hands up defensively. “I, me, I don’t want--”
She sighed. “Tony, I’m getting out of the tower as soon as I possibly can. Just get me a ride to a hotel so I can get some sleep.”
Tony stood up, smiling with relief. “JARVIS, you heard the lady.”
He and the computer were already back to their rapid discussion as she prepared to leave. Before she bid him goodnight, she asked, “But you are going to send a message back, right?”
“In the universal language: charades.” He turned to the screen and removed the video of Drax for the first time since it had appeared. “We know a threat when we hear one; let’s see if they do too. Just need one shot of….” The camera was still on the cage in the lab, but something about the scene was conspicuously missing. “Oh, hell.”
Rocket emerged from a formless, unsettling dream which seemed to continue once his eyes were opened. He remembered that something had caused his thought pattern to change even before he fell asleep, but he couldn’t remember what it was, or why he had been trying to change it back. There was definitely a lingering feeling of wrongness in his mind, though, and as he searched for a word for it, he realized all at once that he had no words to draw on at all.
He leaped to his feet, blinking hard. The silver crisscross pattern that he had been staring through was the framework of a steel cage, and he was on the inside of it. The scent of dry animal food was coming from a bowl in the corner, and everything else around him had a sterile, artificial odor that he knew all too well.
He was in a lab.
The first thing to do was check the enclosure for weaknesses. Swiftly he ran his fingers along each seam, bit the bars in an attempt to identify the metal by taste, and threw his weight against the door. Everything held fast. He knew there had to be a way if he kept at it, but the longer it took him, the greater the likelihood that his captors would return, or that his frayed mind would snap and leave him unable to logic his way out. He honestly didn’t have a clue which one would come first.
The worst part about losing his lexicon was that he couldn’t remember anyone’s name. He knew that his own was the word for a kind of machine, but that just meant that it would change according to the language used to speak it, so he wouldn’t be able to recognize it if he heard it. He knew he had friends, and he remembered their faces and scents and voices, but in spite of that, in a way he didn’t know who they were.
That was all irrelevant, anyway. They might want to come and rescue him, but even if he could be sure of that, he couldn’t let it happen. He was in a lab. The only way anyone came in here was as a subject, and the only way anyone got out was through utter destruction.
Having tested every inch of the cage’s frame, he sat back to take inventory. The gaps in the bars would only fit his arm through up to the elbow, and there was nothing outside of them within his reach. The dishes and bedding were useless. Cutting through the metal and making a bomb were both ruled out. He could get to the padlock on the door, though, if only he’d had something to pick it with…
Illuminated by a sudden memory, he felt for the studs on his back. The length of wire that he had wrapped around one of them while trying to repair his translator was still there. It was small, but once he had removed it and straightened it out, he was sure it was his best chance.
So far he hadn’t paid much attention to anything outside of his immediate surroundings, but if he managed the lock, it would be better to know exactly where he was going next. He could easily imagine the makers storming in and stuffing him back in the cage while he was pondering escape routes. They would have restraining devices. The last makers had used a long electronic wand that could paralyze him with one touch.
The room that held the cage was not very large, but it had multiple doors and one of them was open. It didn’t matter where it led; he just needed to start with somewhere to hide. There was one thing that troubled him about this place, though, aside from the obvious. Where were the other cages? Where was the operating table? He could see microscopes, scales, powered-down three-dimensional display surfaces, but nothing that would enable an in-depth biological experiment.
His heart froze up. They had to be holding him for transfer. He was going back to the place with a name that meant half of a world. Back to his own makers.
Jiggling the wire in the lock was having no effect at all. As he had feared, his own rising panic was eroding his capability. He had to stop thinking about the worst that could happen and stay in the moment, or the worst would be happening.
He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and concentrated on the one truth that could make a difference, making it so clear and simple for himself that he could almost sense the corresponding words: The makers are dead.
The wire twisted in the keyhole, and the padlock slipped off and clattered onto the floor.