Fandom: Guardians of the Galaxy (not Vol.2-compliant)
Wordcount: This part, 2166
Notes: Got the characters out of the compound, woo-hoo, that means I can start working on my favorite part, aftermath!
What had happened was clear enough, really. The freed prisoners had pressured Marwek and Wuul into teleporting them all to safety right away, and those sons-of-a-bitch Yttulriok brothers had either caved, or originated the idea themselves. Groot wouldn’t have known how to help, Drax was probably still unconscious, and Gamora was hated by enough of the crowd to overwhelm her.
That was the logical explanation. Rocket just had to ignore the voice in the back of his head saying that his own teammates had given up on him.
He crouched next to Peter, who he had left lying on his back on the floor, and placed a hand on his cheek. “They wouldn’t give up on you,” he said, for his own sake. “And I won’t either. I said we were gettin’ outta here, didn’t I, Pete?”
There was a ship-to-ship comm system in the cargo bay, but Rocket dialed Gamora directly instead of the Milano, given that he didn’t know who was controlling it right now. He didn’t have much hope, but she picked up almost immediately, exclaiming, “Rocket?!” and then saying to someone else on her side, “He’s alive!”
Groot’s voice overlapped hers as she asked, “Where is Peter?”
Rocket had questions of his own, but just then he could have cried with joy. He spoke loudly enough for Groot to hear: “I’m okay, man, we’re both okay for now. What the hell happened with you?”
Gamora’s remorse was as clear as day. “As soon as I got back to the ship, a fight broke out. Marwek said we could wait another hour for you, but then he teleported all of us out anyway, while Groot was protecting me from the captives. We’re still on the Milano, and...they still won’t let me leave or change the flight path.”
“Hasn’t revived yet, but they’re taking good care of him. Wuul explained how he saved the children. And they saw that Groot saved Drax, so they respect him too.” She was masking her bitterness well, but Rocket sympathized. It was one thing to miss out on the credit you deserved, it was another to be held in contempt by the very people saved by your heroic deeds. “Can’t Peter talk?” she pleaded.
Rocket blew out a long breath. “Not right now, no. Listen, I can rig this to do a second ‘port, but it ain’t gonna be gentle. I gotta get this hunka junk closer to where you’re at before we make the jump, or the displacement syndrome might kill us.”
“How are you going to get the Lotus Leaf out of the hangar? They’ll shoot you down the moment word gets out about what we--”
“I don’t know!” he barked into the comm. “I’m makin’ this up as I go along! I’ll figure it out but just tell me one thing. Even if everything goes right, we’re still gonna be KO’d when we materializorate. Can we count on these goofy ingrates to not kill us on sight?”
“I am Groot,” said Groot before Gamora could answer.
Rocket smiled sadly, hoping he would hear those words in person again. “I’ll take that,” he told Gamora. “Hey, try to explain to him what’s goin’ on, would ya? I ain’t got time right now.”
“Are you sure this is the only way?”
“Open to suggestions.”
He let the pause go on for just a few seconds before they both sighed, and Gamora wished him luck. Rocket considered adding a farewell that contained the words if we don’t make it, but held it back. Peter wouldn’t say that. Peter would assume they were going to make it.
After ending the call, he looked around for a place that Peter could be secured. He would have preferred to bring him along up to the cockpit, but it was strenuous enough dragging him a few meters across the floor. The weight wasn’t an issue; he was just too big for Rocket to carry over his shoulders or in his arms. “Don’t ever get caught in a paralysis field again,” he grunted as he trudged backward with Peter hanging limply from his hands.
Against the hull down here there were a few seats with straps, but there were also a couple of suspended animation pods, which seemed safer considering Peter’s current condition. Rocket hauled him into one and programmed it to the Unenhanced Sleep setting, then closed the lid and took one last look at his friend’s comatose face. “Back soon,” he whispered.
Rocket hadn’t spent much time in the Lotus Leaf’s cockpit, but he was already familiar with its controls thanks to piloting it remotely after the Astrans had joined up with the Guardians on the way to the laboratory. It was an easy vehicle for even an inexperienced pilot to handle, but Rocket was going to need all of his skill and creativity to coax it into performing in ways that were logically beyond its capabilities.
He pulled out of the hangar immediately, knowing he couldn’t waste a second of the grace period he had before all of the aerial security for the compound caught on. The weapons he had at his disposable might help him take out a pursuant ship or two, but in an all-out firefight he wouldn’t stand a chance. He steered through the exit tunnel, hacked the gate to open for him without scanning his credentials, and burst out into open space with a gale of victorious laughter.
The first guard ship appeared on the radar behind him. The speakers buzzed, and a voice came through: “Class D-17 Transport Vessel, halt immediately or we will fire!”
Rocket pushed a button absently to answer. “Class-A Cement Heads, go screw yourselves.” He set the navigation to show him where the Milano was waiting, but he couldn’t head in its direction yet without revealing its location to the enemy. Speeding out to where he had room to maneuver was a bad idea, too, since that would just give them a chance to catch up and a clear shot. His best hope was to fill the playing field with obstacles, and the best obstacles were more manned spacecrafts.
As promised, the guard ship fired, but Rocket was ready for it, and he got off one well-placed shot first. He veered to avoid the missile aimed at him; the enemy wasn’t as successful at avoiding the one aimed at them. With the head of their fleet faltering, he was free to soar into the planetary access route, full of traffic.
There was a reason the Guardians had needed the Astrans’ cover to get into the compound, and the access codes from Keelah to get that far. This was a bad part of the galaxy, and anyone flying in range of Rocket’s sensors was sure to be someone involved in some shady business. They wouldn’t be responsive to any kind of authority, even a fleet of enforcers for an operation owned by Thanos.
They would, however, be very responsive to a violent chase happening in their midst. As soon as Rocket steered the Lotus Leaf into a crowded area, the guards stopped shooting at him. They had to, or every ship in the vicinity would have turned on them, outraged that a personal quarrel was taking place where it would endanger noncombatants. Now that Rocket had made it this far, all he needed to do was duck and weave through the traffic flow to gain more distance from his pursuers.
Threats were still coming in through his speakers, usually some variation on: “You can run, but you can’t hide.” Rocket had responded at first with whatever insults came to mind, but the fact was that they were right, and he didn’t want to reveal that he knew that. When the chase terminated, it had to look like they had cornered him.
Finally he had reached the end of the line of commuters, having bought at least a half hour of time before the security fleet reached him -- more time than he needed to complete the task. He stopped the ship, sweating as if he had been running away on foot instead of sitting in a pilot’s seat. On his navigation screen, a bright dot representing the Milano gleamed, assuring him that it was now within the range he needed and not moving. He felt a rush of gratitude toward whoever had made the call to wait for him. If there was trouble on board, he and Peter would probably die, but at least they would die at home.
Wearily he released himself from the seat and stumbled his way through the ship back down to the cargo bay. The pod was where he had left it, and Peter didn’t seem to have a hair out of place. That was only to be expected, what with suspended animation being the entire purpose of the pod, but Rocket still half-collapsed over it, shedding tears of relief or stress or the fear he had been holding back for so long. “Okay,” he sniffled. “Okay, Pete, I’m gonna get the teleporter set up. It should still be good for just this one more ‘port, since it’s only the two of us.” He pushed himself back to his feet and programmed the controls for the ring of beam projectors, checking the remaining power levels and the input of coordinates until satisfied that they were as reliable as they were going to get. “All set. Now we need to get to the center of the ring. Ten minutes or so and it’ll activate automatically.”
Instead of hauling Peter out of the pod, he pushed the entire thing into the middle of the floor, aided by the design of the device, which slid along as guided so that he didn’t need to take its full weight. It even had a function to lock into the floor again in its new location, which meant it would remain here when Peter and Rocket were ported out. “I’m not gonna try to wake you up,” Rocket informed Peter as he removed the lid from the pod. “It’s easier on your system if you’re already unconscious, ‘cos of the...’cos of the...” He yawned. “I’ll explain it all when you’re awake, if ya want.”
With careful movements, he climbed into the pod. There was just enough room to lie down beside Peter, head nestled over his heart. “So here we are,” he mused. “Not too long ago I was the one sleepin’ through it all, and you watchin’ over me.” He shuddered and clutched Peter’s shirt. “I never been as scared as I was when we went into that operating room. You probably think I blocked it out and I don’t remember nothin’, but I do. I know I freaked out and thought it was another experiment. I know you were there the whole time. You talked to me and you sang songs and you kept sayin’ it was all gonna be okay until I started believin’ you.
“That kinda thing never happened to me before. I didn’t think people like you would ever want anythin’ to do with someone like me. I figured even Groot only stuck around ‘cos he didn’t know any better. But no matter what I do, all the shit I pull, you’re still there when I need you.”
For a minute he lay silently, letting Peter’s breath move him. The teleportation device surrounding them made only a subtle noise, but he knew it was working properly and would soon take them away from here. He knew the laboratory security ships were close now too, getting ready to immobilize the Lotus Leaf and board, or just destroy it outright. One way or another, it would all be over soon.
“I can’t say for sure we’re gonna survive this jump,” he said to Peter. “I think I did what you woulda wanted, though. I got all the prisoners out. They’re safe now. Makers ain’t gonna get any more material for more like me. Gamora and Drax and Groot, I think they’re gonna be okay, too.” He yawned again and embraced Peter around the neck, knowing that the disappearance of the pod would disrupt his position so that nobody on the other side of the jump would read too much into it. “If you do make it, I don’t got any regrets. I’m glad we met. Thanks for all the second chances. Maybe someday I can explain all that when you’re awake, too.”
The quiet thrum from the teleporter changed pitch, signaling the next stage of initiation. Rocket trembled. “Pete, don’t laugh, but I’m gonna sing a song for you. I’m gonna sing your song from your tape like you sang it to me when I was under, and I hope it works the same way because here it comes, Pete. Here we go, Star-Lord. Wake me up on the other side. I really wanna know you, really wanna go with you...”