Fandom: Guardians of the Galaxy (not Vol.2-compliant)
Wordcount: This part, 2411
Notes: Told you I was on a mad rush.
None of the other Guardians, except for Peter, were visible on the control room monitors. That was a relief, in a way: Groot must have gotten Drax to safety, and Gamora must have made it back to the Lotus Leaf to keep Marwek and Wuul from activating the teleporter without the rest of them. But Rocket needed help, and he needed it badly enough to ask for it.
He tried Gamora on her comm, but after five seconds she hadn’t answered, and five seconds was too long to leave Peter paralyzed in the same room as the scientist who had knocked him out. Rocket’s heart clenched; he was going to have to leave the control room. In a frenzied search for inspiration, he found some basic controls for sending out alarm messages, and released one without checking to see what it was. Maybe it would provide a distraction.
There was one weapon he had left on the floor, since of course he wasn’t going to go into anything unarmed. He jumped down from the rack, hefted the modified rifle over his shoulder, and then scaled back up to where he had been so that he could reach the switches that operated the door. He had the gun aimed and ready when it opened, exposing him, but thankfully, nobody was there.
Gun strapped against his back, he ran on all fours at his top speed down the corridor and to the room where Peter had fallen. Less than a minute had passed since the forcefield had neutralized him, and he looked no different than he had on the camera, but Rocket couldn’t spare him more than half a glance, because the enemy was still inside, too.
Why the scientist hadn’t yet approached more than a few steps became clear when Rocket saw him looking up at a monitor high on the wall, which had turned itself on to illuminate the darkened room in a sickly glow. The alert on it read: TEST SUBJECT LOOSE. CEASE ALL ACTIVITY UNTIL SUBJECT HAS BEEN SECURED.
Rocket almost laughed -- of all the error messages he could have sent out, it had to be the one that was true -- but then the screen changed to display further information.
Can operate weapons and machinery
Use stun/tranquilizer guns to subdue. Do not approach!
It even had a picture of him. How was this possible? The alert couldn’t have been generated anywhere but the control room, and he hadn’t done anything to indicate his own presence.
Unless...he had been all over the most equipment-heavy area in the complex, and as soon as he had tripped the “subject loose” alarm, there could have been an automatic sensor that identified his genetic signature. It was safe to assume that this laboratory had all of his records, transferred in from Halfworld, so it must have synced to fill in the data about exactly which test subject had escaped.
In short, he had announced his presence to everyone here. Well, he thought grimly, I wanted a distraction.
His arrival in the doorway drew the scientist’s attention away from the monitor, but when he saw that he was looking at a match for the photo beneath the warning, he did a perfect double take. This time Rocket really did laugh, though he had never felt less mirthful. Before the enemy could react any further, he had taken a blast from Rocket’s rifle full in the chest.
Oddly, the only thought that Rocket could grasp after firing was that he had broken Peter’s rule and killed someone. He dropped the gun and knelt over Peter’s form, touching his cheek. His eyes were still open; the paralysis would reach his face last, so he might even be able to speak for the next thirty seconds or so. “Hey,” Rocket said hoarsely. “Hey, I know you can still hear me. I need you, Peter. You were supposed to be my conscience. I don’t know what to do here and, and, I’m scared...” He covered his mouth. He had never told anyone he was scared before, not even Groot. He had never imagined the kind of circumstances that would make him admit that out loud.
A very slight change came into Peter’s expression, which had been frozen in the shock he must have felt when he was attacked. Now his eyebrows were just barely tilting in sympathy, and his mouth looked like it was trying to smile. “Mission,” he rasped. “Go. You...good.” He blinked, and then became fully motionless.
Rocket palmed his eyes closed for him, knowing that he could no longer do it himself. It felt too much like administering to the newly deceased, and part of him wanted to just curl up and cry it out until something changed here, whether it was Peter recovering or the makers coming to kill them both. Instead, he leaned close to his ear and said, “Fine, you asshole. I’ll try. But you owe me big time for this and I swear if you die I’ll...I’ll...don’t fucking die, Pete!”
There was no way to get him behind a closed door and still be able to get back to him later, so Rocket dragged him deeper into the room and under a table that cast a shadow black enough to hide him. The scientist’s body would have to stay where it was, but Rocket ran over to check that he was really dead before leaving. He was, and his eyes had stayed open, too. Rocket left them that way.
Rocket kept his oversized rifle strapped across his back, but he also took one of Peter’s blasters. Peter wouldn’t be able to use it, and additional weapons gave a small boost to Rocket’s confidence. He approached the next room with caution, peering around the corner before entering. He wished that he could have somehow kept the monitoring system from the control room with him, but at least he had his sharpened senses. He could smell chemicals, sanitized medical equipment, everything he dreaded except for the humans who worked with it. He could also smell animals. A lot of them.
When he stepped in, his courage nearly failed him entirely. The cages were stacked against every wall, up to six high, and most held multiple creatures. They made very little noise, considering their numbers and conditions, and Rocket was instantly sure, without knowing how he knew, that all of them had been born here and known no other life.
He forced himself to come close to one of the cages and peer inside at the furry brown thing that cowered in the farthest corner. “What did they do to you? Anything? Or are you still whatever your parents and their parents were?” There was no answer or any other sign of intelligence. Rocket stepped away and addressed the entire room’s occupants. “Can anyone understand me?”
It was a doomed hope from the start. Rocket raked his hands through his head fur. “Dammit, Peter! What do I do?”
There was a monitor in this room, too, still flashing with the warning and information about Rocket. Someone else was probably reading it right now and getting their stun gun ready. Rocket hated stun guns. The only worse way to be captured was with a forcefield, like they had used on Peter. He realized that he was whimpering, way back in his throat, and gave his head an angry shake. “Extremely dangerous,” he quoted. “Do not fuckin’ approach.”
With that thought fixed firmly in his mind, he ran over to the room’s individual console and examined it to see what capabilities it had. His heart sank as he found confirmation that his only idea would work. He didn’t want to do it, but he saw no other option and Peter wasn’t here to tell him if this was the wrong choice.
Some simple rewiring and a few typed commands sent a jolt through each cage, giving every test subject an instant death that Rocket was fairly sure was painless. “It’s better,” he whispered into the following silence. “You wouldn’t want what was comin’ next.”
He kept Peter’s blaster drawn as he continued on, intently conscious of the time ticking away. There were six more rooms to check if he was going to finish the mission properly. The guards all seemed to have been defeated by the other Guardians -- he had already passed a few fallen ones in the corridor, and could see more up ahead -- which meant that only the makers were left. Anyone else would have thought that the weak intellectual scientists were the less dangerous enemy. Rocket knew better. He never should have let his friends face them without him.
While he was between rooms and could hear nothing moving nearby, he tried Gamora on her comm again. This time there was some sound coming through, but not her voice, and Rocket didn’t try to listen and interpret the muffled background noise.
There was just one prisoner in the next cell, and no guards or makers. It was a Xandarian male, naked and strapped to a table on his back. Rocket came forward warily, and saw that he was conscious, and that all four of his limbs were artificial. His cybernetic left arm appeared to be fully attached and functional, while the right arm and both legs were held in place with metal pins, exposed sinews twisted around them.
His eyes followed Rocket, and he was the first to speak, irony in his voice. “Well, you’re not one of them.”
Rocket shook his head and lowered the blaster. “I’m with the Guardians of the Galaxy. We came to, uh...to rescue you.”
“Little late for that,” said the man. “But I’m glad it’s over.”
Rocket didn’t ask what he meant by that. “Can ya tell me anything about what else is goin’ on in this place?”
“No. All they said is that they’re testing these parts on me. Gods know what they did with my real parts. Are there others like me? Sometimes I hear things...”
“Yeah.” It was such a relief to be talking to someone who talked back, someone who was at least harmless if not helpful, that Rocket almost started on a full explanation of everything he knew. But Peter was waiting, and he had a real problem on his hands now. “Look, we gotta get out and those fake legs don’t look like they’re goin’ anywhere, so hang tight while I find some kinda...” What? A wheelchair? Who would push it?
The Xandarian raised his voice. “Stop, Guardian. I wasn’t supposed to live through this. If you try to move me you’ll disconnect me from the life support.”
“I can fix that.” Rocket looked at the way the equipment was attached to the victim and winced. It would take a long time to rewire it, and he still wouldn’t have a way to move him when it was done.
“Please. Just unstrap me, that’s all I want.”
Rocket hesitated, confused by the request. Taking the restraints off wouldn’t allow the man to move. It wouldn’t do any harm either, though, and it kept his hands busy while he was trying to think of a more permanent solution.
“My name is Tetrouni Raas. I was a Nova Corps pilot. I’ve been MIA for the past year. I have a family waiting to hear what happened to me.” He met Rocket’s eyes as his left arm was freed and waited for a nod. “Thank you, Guardian.” He held up the cybernetic hand, flexed it, and then reached behind himself to grab a fistful of bunched wires that led through a hole in his pallet to the back of his neck. With one sharp tug, he had pulled them out. A trail of sparks danced across his metallic limbs, but the light was gone instantly from his eyes.
Rocket jumped back with a hiss. “You’re not welcome,” he informed the dead man, but he pushed him back into a position that looked like sleep. “Tetrouni Raas. I’ll try.”
The next room had no cages, cells, or works in progress. Rocket had never felt so grateful to be alone.
As he was leaving, two more staff members finally showed their faces, both of them walking toward him down the corridor. They did have stun guns, but Rocket outmatched them easily and dropped them with two measured blasts from Peter’s weapon. The next open door was right beside them, and a tense voice rang out from inside it when they fell: “It’s out there! It shot them!”
Rocket kept his breathing steady. They knew where he was. They knew what he was. They would be ready for him. He needed some kind of advantage. “Heightened intelligence,” he told himself. “Think. Think. Cybernetic enhancements. Can operate machinery. Weapons. Think!”
It was no use. He knew this was a situation that he should have been uniquely qualified to handle, but the last time he had been trapped in a lab facing death or worse at the hands of mad scientists, he had never experienced anything better. He hadn’t even known what to wish for, except an end to the pain, or at his worst moments, oblivion.
Now he had so much at stake. He had friends he wanted to see again, a life he could live again if he could only get through this. He wanted to be falling asleep with Peter in the bunk that smelled like both of them. More than anything, he wanted Peter here now, conscious, cocky, offering guidance and teamwork. “What do I do?” Rocket asked again. “What the hell would you be doin’ right now?”
He knew the answer: Peter would be saving everyone. Even him. That was how they had gotten here in the first place -- Rocket had woken up injured and unwilling to do anything about it, but safe. The last thing he remembered before that was climbing into one of those ridiculous ‘rooster’ mechs, so someone must have run through a battlefield and carried him to the ship, and there was little doubt about who that had been. Rocket shook his head in chagrin. Him and his stupid ideas. Of course a vehicle walking on two legs wouldn’t provide any real protection in an open space...
Rocket blinked. He went over his last few thoughts, and very slowly, he grinned.