“For the last time, we are not planting a bomb at any time during this delivery!” Gamora shouted irritably towards the raccoon who only ignored her entirely, staring down at the mechanism in his hands and furrowing his brow with concentration.
“And why not? The bloke almost got us killed last time we made a delivery.” Rocket quipped back, eyes darting up to meet hers before making a grab for one of his many tools that had been scattered across the table they all sat around.
Gamora let out a sigh of defeat. They had been an official ‘team’ for months now and somehow, in the minds of the civilians, that meant intergalactic delivery company. Not that the guardians minded much, they were given the chance to explore the further reaches of the galaxy and often times, adventure ensued seeing as though the lives of criminals never rest. And of course money had been a key detail for their, as Quill called it, superhero work. But it did often times feel rather degrading.
In fact, it was because of their somewhat demeaning job status that Gamora had first agreed to this particular delivery. Not only was the planet it was directed to fairly dangerous, but by the way their client had spoken, the transaction was quite illegal and risky in itself.
Although she did understand the raccoon’s uneasiness. They had made contact with their client before in another rather risky transaction, an infinity stone as it turned out, which had not ended well. In fact, it had caught Gamora by surprise that the Collector would try and contact them at all seeing as though their last encounter had left his collection in shambles. But who was she to turn away from such an incredible offer.
It wasn’t four billion units of course, but the amount of money that a man who had his life’s work reduced to rubble only months ago was willing to offer, but the Collector’s payment was still more than the Guardians could have hoped for at this point.
Despite being official employees of Nova by an extent, the Guardians had yet to be compensated for much more than the rebuilding of the Milano, and what little money they did earn of their mundane deliveries was beginning to run low.
“I do not see why you are so adamant about keeping us from completing this mission.” She stated irritably. Rocket snorted slightly at the mention of the word ‘mission,’ knowing full well that this was simply another errand Nova had sent them on.
“Because it’s so obviously a trap.” He stated plainly, not even bothering to meet her eyes this time as he twisted another screw into place on the piece of machinery that he was ‘repairing,’ although Gamora saw no need for any modifications to the weapon, let alone any of the other guns and bombs he insisted on tearing apart at his bench.
“Why would you assume that?” Drax spoke up, tilting his head towards the furred creature inquisitively.
Rocket shrugged, yanking at a wire as though it were his main interest at the moment. “Call it animal intuition.” He said. Despite the fact that Rocket would gladly tear apart anyone who dared address him as an animal, he had begun to use his enhanced differences to his advantage. “I’m telling you, something just doesn’t feel right about this ‘mission.’”
Gamora pursed her lips and looked to Peter for support. “What do you think?” She asked, crossing her arms across her chest as their leader’s eyes widened with the sudden realization that he had just been put on the spot.
“Uh, I hate to say this, but I actually agree with Rocket here.” He managed, rubbing the back of his neck nervously, eyes darting from the rather irritated ex-assassin.
“Come on Gamora, don’t tell me this doesn’t seem just a little bit fishy. I mean the last time we saw this Collector guy, we kind of indirectly blew up his entire hide-out. Do you really think he wants us to make another delivery? I mean we don’t even know what’s in this box thing. What if it’s another infinity stone or whatever?” He argued, glancing towards Rocket as though searching for support. Unfortunately the raccoon had yet to look up from his work as he yanked at another chord.
“I too sense the presence of sea life with our client.” Drax managed, smiling triumphantly at his use of the metaphor, oblivious to the confused looks of his team members. “However, I do not think it should keep us from making this delivery, he is offering a large sum of money that we are in need of.”
Gamora stood taller, tilting her head towards Quill as Drax remained on her side. He frowned as though offended before standing up himself. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t go, we need the money. But I am saying that we shouldn’t let our guards down.”
Their arguing was interrupted by a faint beeping at the console of the ship, making the presence of their target planet aware to the Guardians. Both Quill and Gamora made their way to the front of the cockpit, taking their positions in their seats as Peter took hold of the controls.
“This is a bad idea.” Rocket sang quietly as he took his position next to Groot. His fingers had yet to leave the trigger of the plasma ray in his hand and the safety of the large blaster mounted upon his back had already been switched off.
Gamora rolled her eyes at the raccoon’s childish antics, refusing to argue with her furred companion any more than she had already allowed. “We’re almost there, we’ll get in, make the transaction, and leave.” She stated plainly, not even looking down to make eye contact with the rather irritating creature at her feet.
Rocket scoffed. “Alright but if all this goes to hell, which it will by the way, I’m not above saying that ‘I told you so.’” He taunted, grasping onto Groot’s leg and scrambling up onto his friend’s shoulder as he was finding himself unable to keep up with the other’s long strides.
“Well if you feel so uncomfortable with this mission, then you may as well stay outside and keep watch.” Peter called back from the front of the group, shoving his hands in his pockets for security as a crowd of small children made their way between the guardians, their hands open in search of a generous passer.
Gamora pursed her lips before fishing out a few units and slipping it into one of the pink skinned girl’s hands, receiving a bright smile in return. She was pulled quickly out of her musings when Rocket let out a degrading chuckle. Her eyes shot up quickly to the raccoon who was now lounging on Groot’s shoulders. She was beginning to think that his position upon his friend’s appendage was becoming less and less about being stepped on in a crowd and simply about becoming taller than everyone else.
“We need the money.” He said in a high pitched tone, waving his hands dramatically. “Please, this is all an adrenaline trip for you jerks.” He continued, gesturing back to the little girl behind them who was now reaching her small hand into the back of someone’s pocket, taking the tattered wallet into her own possession before taking off back down the crowded street.
The woman frowned. “I thought you’d be more excited about a mission involving danger and rewards. Is that not what your bounty hunter business thrived off of?” She managed, twisting herself as another mob of people made their way in the opposite direction.
“So you admit that there is danger involved?” The raccoon countered.
Gamora could only purse her lips at the irritating creature beside her, picking up her pace a bit to walk beside Drax. The man may be still unable to understand the meaning of metaphors, but he could certainly hold a conversation much more enlighting than that which she was now sharing with Rocket.
The rest of the trip to the Collector’s establishment was in a brisk silence until they came upon the large white building. It was still blackened with ash in some places from the previous explosion involving the infinity stone and it was obvious that the thing was still under construction, but compared to the rest of Knowhere and its landscape, it was still something to marvel at. Or in Rocket’s case, cringe.
He shuddered as his eyes scanned over the tall structure. He was considering taking up on Quill’s offer of staying outside during their transaction. He had managed to endure the place filled to the brim filled with what he could only describe as strange life forms once and he didn’t think he would be able to endure seeing those glass cages again without some form of intoxication.
“Rocket, you coming in?” Quill called, having reached the entrance, his hand already positioned around the door’s handle.
The raccoon looked up at the structure once more warily before nodding hesitantly and leaping down off of Groot’s shoulders to walk on his own. “Yeah, but only so I can gloat when this ends up being a trap.” He grumbled, stiffening when the doors flung themselves open, a woman in a small white dress grinning unnervingly at the five. She looked almost identical to the one who had disintegrated in a burst of purple and black and Rocket was beginning to wonder if the Collector had a surplus of clones doing his bidding… it wouldn’t have surprised him.
“Starlord.” She said in a high cheery voice. Rocket chuckled to himself as Quill’s posture straightened immensely, smiling in triumph at his superhero name. “The Collector will see you now.”
The girl took off into the building, the clicking of her shoes against the tiled floors being the only sound for a while before the Guardians followed suit. The interior looked almost restored despite the lack of either escaped or deceased prisoners, leaving many of the glass display cases empty and dimly lit as though awaiting a new captive.
A shudder ran up Rocket’s spine as one of the lights in an open case flickered, tightening his grip on his gun out of instinct. “I am Groot?” The large tree man beside him called down curiously.
The raccoon shrugged. “This place just gives me the creeps you know? I’m telling ya Groot, something doesn’t smell right here.” He said, cringing in disgust as a large bug creature of some sort pressed itself against the glass of its containment unit.
“Ah, my dear friends.” A low drawn out voice called from the opposite side of the room. The Guardians turned around quickly to face the white haired man as he stepped slowly toward them, his furred cape dragging behind him. “I must say that I am delighted to see you all again after all that had happened.” He continued, his slow and almost methodic voice making Rocket shiver.
“Yeah, you seen pretty ecstatic.” He murmured, scowling when Gamora nudged him with her foot.
“I see you’ve brought your pet with you again.” The Collector said, his pale lips curling up into the slightest smile. Rocket growled under his breath but left his pistol at his side.
He saw Drax frown out of the corner of his eyes as the man stepped forward defensively. “I see no use in this argument, can we make the transaction now?” He said gruffly, gesturing towards Quill who was holding the small box in his palms.
The man frowned but held his and out for the container anyway. “Of course. I’m assuming you would like to be paid in units?” He said in his monotone voice which Rocket couldn’t decide wanted to make him want to fall asleep or shudder again.
Peter nodded curtly, handing over the box. “I’m assuming you’re not about to tell us exactly what it is in that container are you?” He inquired curiously, gesturing to the thing now sitting in the man’s pale palms.
Another ‘smile’ (if you could eve call it that) graced the Collector’s lips as he placed the item of interest on a metallic table and pulled open a drawer filled to the brim with units that Rocket was almost considering figuring out a plan to steal them all while they were here. If the Guardians wanted a thrill ride, hey may as well get what they could grab.
“Unfortunately not, I am hoping to avoid what events transpired the last time we met.” He chuckled, pulling out a transparent bow filled to capacity with their money. “This is the payment we agreed upon, you may count it out if you would like, but I can assure you that it is all there. Now if you would excuse me.”
And with that, the Collector turned slowly from the group, his new possession in hand as he made his way to private quarters, leaving the five in an uncomfortably stifling silence, the only sound being the few caged creatures banging themselves against the walls of their containers.
Quill turned around, his brows furrowed in slight confusion, practically mirroring the others as they all stood in a circle with varying looks of confusion. “So… is that it?” He asked, holding up the box of units in his hands towards the group.
“Exactly how many explosions were you two expecting?” Gamora asked, turning on a heel and pushing the doors of the building open again, the others following quickly in step behind her.
“I wasn’t expecting explosions per se.” Quill continued, tilting the box in his hand as though expecting a clue to their confusion inside among the units. “Just… I don’t know, more?”
Gamora chuckled to herself, obviously in the gloating mood. But Rocket wasn’t paying attention to her when his ears began picking up on something else, he paused in his walking for a moment, allowing the others to gain a larger lead ahead of him.
“Rocket?” Quill called back, realizing that the raccoon was no longer with them.
“Sh!” he managed, holding a hand out to further his point as his ears twitched wildly, the sound of guns being loaded and heavy footfalls in the many sketchy alleyways of the severed head that was Knowhere. It wouldn’t seem all that strange were the footsteps not coming closer at rapid pace from all angles surrounding their ship that was growing closer as the Guardians continued to walk.
His eyes snapped open wide as the realization hit him, falling forward onto all fours and practically tackling Gamora down just as one of their ambushers fired his weapon, a coil of sparking wires webbing out from the device like a spider and wrapping itself around his small body.
Gamora pushed herself up quickly to glare angrily at Rocket who had knocked her over quite spontaneously, ready to skin herself a raccoon carcass when she realized that someone had already taken the liberty of wrenching him off of her thin frame.
She turned around to face her furred partner only to find that it was not one of the Guardians to have lifted him from her back. Her eyes widened upon seeing Rocket gritting him teeth as electrical convulsions ran throughout his cybernetic skeleton.
She had barely begun to process the events unfolding when she heard another blast from her right. The green skinned woman leapt and tumbled to the side, barely missing another electrical surge as the device clattered to the ground beside her, wires ablaze with electricity as they jumped with life on the cobblestone in search of a host.
She wasn’t one for using guns, finding that she fought better at hand to hand combat, but seeing as though their attackers weren’t about to give her enough time to gain that distance, she was instead forced to grab one of Peter’s pistols from his belt and fire into the darkness of the alleyway in front of her, smiling when she heard an audible grunt and the clatter of a gun hitting the ground.
“Quill.” She called, tossing the gun back to him and racing back to Rocket’s side, pulling out her knife and snapping the wires. His eyes were wide with panic as he continued to twitch under the effects of the device, blue sparks leaping from the protruding cybernetics in his back and chest, burning holes into his trademark jumpsuit. Gamora practically tore her knife from its place at her calf and cut the wires from her friend’s body, cringing when an electric pulse leapt from the device and up her arm.
Furrowing her brow a the sudden shakiness of her left hand, she snapped the rest of the chords before flinging the thing aside, watching it flicker out of power as it was smashed to pieces against the wall.
Rocket had yet to uncurl from his fetal position but he was conscious and, to Gamora’s relief, breathing steadily. Groot, of course, was the first one at his friend’s side, reaching out a wooden hand to offer help but was swatted at weakly by the shaky raccoon.
“Rocket, are you-“ Gamora started, but was cut off as her furred companion began to push himself into a sitting position, his arm spasaming slightly with the shakiness in his muscles.
“’m fine.” He managed through clenched teeth. Although the shakiness of his legs as he tried to push himself onto his feet proved otherwise. He eventually settled on grasping Groot’s wooden leg for support, body twitching with a sudden spasm very few seconds.
“What the hell was that?” Peter shouted, shooting another blast of plasma blindly into the alleyway as the last of their attackers decided to retreat.
“Was it not the fish of which you were sensing?” Drax asked, tearing a dagger from the gut of his own victim before turning back to face his team.
“It was an ambush.” She stated plainly, lifting her left arm which had all but gone limp. Since its brief encounter with the electric device. In fact, it was a wonder Rocket was even moving at this point seeing as though he had been subjected to the torturous device for far longer and in larger quantity. It made her wonder exactly how much of the raccoon’s skeleton was actually cybernetic.
“What, from the Collector? I mean I knew he was angry at us but…” Quill trailed off upon seeing Rocket’s stumbling state.
“No, they were followers of Ronan, I recognize the weaponry.” She said, almost in shock as realization dawned upon her. “They were after me, angered at my disloyalty to their leader. That device was created to disable my mechanical systems.” Rocket’s eyes widened upon the explanation.
“It’s not permanent right?” He asked. If Gamora hadn’t known better, she would have thought him to be almost panicked.
She shook her head, shaking her arm and flexing he fingers weakly as though to further her point. It should wear off by the morning. In the meantime, however, I would suggest that you keep away from your devices.”
The Raccoon frowned. “Yeah I guess that’s doable.” He managed, although his twitching had yet to stop and the shakiness of his legs had all but gotten worse. However, if the raccoon was good at one thing, it was keeping his ‘weaknesses’ under wraps. “Now can we please get off this blasted planet? I swear I’m gonna have an aneurism if I gotta stay here another second.” He continued, before patting Groot’s leg and making his way up the Milano’s ramp himself.
“Oh and Gamora.” The woman looked up towards her smaller colleague. “I told ya so.”
Rocket’s head had been pounding since the ambush and had shown no signs of stopping, even in the calming darkness of his bunker. Groot had left him after hours of trying to ‘help,’ or in Groot’s case prodding at his side and whispering ‘I am Groot’ over and over.
Gamora had mentioned that the device had sent him out of commission for who knows how long. Luckily the spasms of his limbs had ceased, however he was beginning to wonder exactly how the electric pulses had affected him.
Or at least he was until the pounding in his head turned into a sharp pain and everything went black.