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Blame It On The Stars

By WriteLikeAnAmerican

Action / Romance

Chapter 32

In which things get worse.


He’s barred from the engine rooms. When he tries to creep down during his lunch cycle – Dagada’s removed his rest hours, only allowing him off the Bridge for as long as it takes to fetch food and return – his palm thuds uselessly against the biolock. Everyone he asks to grant him access gives him a long-suffering look and barges him out the way. After the third rough shove and the fifth insult, Kraglin gives in.

Hope ur okay, he sends to Morlug’s wrist-reader. He can’t think of anything else to say that won’t turn into a paragraph of apologies and sentimental, shamefully soft drivel. Even if Morlug could read at a pace of more than a couple of words per hour, she wouldn’t stick around to plow through that nonsense. He receives his reply that night cycle – a smiley face which says no less and no more than can be encompassed by the bleak black dots of its eyes. He ponders over answering – Miss u? C u soon? – but decides against it, and clicks off his holodisplay before flipping on his stomach and burrowing under the pillow.

Fuck this.

Fuck everything.

But especially fuck himself, for being a dumb enough shit to believe his plan would actually work. The hell is wrong with him? Is he really that desperate, that hungry for Yondu’s approval, that he’d jeopardize their safety for a whiff of it?

Kraglin clutches the pillow to his face and noisily inhales. Stale fabric and limp stuffing. Not enough air. Perhaps if he lays here long enough, he’ll smother himself and make everyone’s lives easier. Dagada’ll stop hounding Morlug over whatever fling he perceives between them. Isla won’t feel as guilty. Yondu can get out the brig and he and Figs can plot in peace; maybe murder Dagada quietly on a non-descript offship mission a few years from now, then con Thrabba into naming Yondu second until he can serve him the same treatment.

Aw fuck. That’d probably work, as well.

Kraglin pushes his face up when the stuffiness gets too much to bear, gasping, and treats his pillow to resolute punch. Hell though. He’s not gonna flop about and take this. Kraglin ain’t no goddam bitch – he’s Kraglin Obfonteri. And he hates waiting for life to dole out its shit, not when he could be making some damn headway and wading through it. Nope. This is not going to keep him down.

Morlug’ll be in her bunk now. She works the same shift as him, but sleeps in the overflow dorm allocated to those on their cycle who can’t be crammed into this one without them all risking suffocating in the night; the one behind the ordinance store on the floor above. He doesn’t dare comm her – not when Dagada might be monitoring the stream. Kraglin can picture him, insomnia-raw eyes flickering madly over the read-outs as he mutters to himself, all embryonic devotions and dedications and declarations of love.

Okay. So maybe that’s a mild exaggeration.

Whatever. They need a monster to fight. Kraglin spins Dagada into one; a hulking scar-clad phantom who coos over the dove of his fevered dreams. But said dove’s dorm is only on the next floor up. If Kraglin can make it there, blend in with the crowd… That train of thought shudders to a halt.

Then what? Like Dagada won’t have restricted access to her quarters as well? It ain’t like Morlug’s gonna fuck nobody, whether or not they’re creepy obsessive Ravager captains, but Dagada’s one jealous a-hole and he’s probably rigged the lock to blow if Kraglin so much as breathes on it. Still. He ain’t gonna know unless he tries – and if he doesn’t try, he’ll never forgive himself.

Kraglin slithers over the side of the bunk, dropping soundlessly to the floor. He doesn’t put on his boots until he reaches the door – wincing as something cold, liquid, and disturbingly mucus-like seeps through the tight fiber of his thermal socks.

Once he’s out the door he laces them up as quickly as his tired fingers can manage – earning curious looks from passing Ravagers. But this late into his night cycle there’s few who’ll recognize him, whether or not they’re aware of the part he played in the whole canteen shindig. Kraglin lets them stare. Wrings the mulched remains of a Shorro-special – coulda been worse, he supposes, but not by much – out of his sock.

Then he squares his shoulders, adjusts his jacket, and sets off to Morlug’s quarters at a confident swagger. Nothing to see here. Just another Ravager, going about his business.

He’s perfected his dull-eyed glare when he spots a familiar figure standing above a ladder shaft in preparation for the descent.

It’s Dagada.

There’s no mistaking that saffron skin, silvered over with vitiligo where the coolant scars have yet to heal. Even if there was, there’s the circle of space around him, that meter of perfect stillness untouched by Ravager red. Kraglin’s stomach knots. He forces himself to keep walking. He’s coming up on Dagada from behind. No way to stop moving; he’ll only be pushed forwards by the barrier of crewmen flowing along this side of the corridor. No side alleys to slink off into either. Barging a retreat through the crowd will just draw attention to himself. It’s all he can do to slow his steps to a contemplative dither, as Dagada sinks bootfirst into the shaft.

If he turns…

Dagada, grasping the top rung, frowns at the prickle of a foreign gaze. He whips around – but by that time, Kraglin’s ducked into the path of a convenient Kamado woman, who scowls down her puggish nose as she tries to maneuver her bulk around him. He pretends to be searching for a scrub panel as Dagada shakes his head and vanishes into the chute. Huffing, the Kamado picks him up under the armpits, swings him round, and drops him to her not inconsiderable rear.

“Little shitstains should learn t’stay out the way,” she rumbles. Kraglin bobs, mumbles an apology that he hopes sounds more sincere to her ears than it does to his, and counts the seconds until Dagada clears the shaft before scampering after him.

Why’s the captain awake at this hour? There’s no alerts, no danger warnings popping up on his Bridge-link. No reason for him to be patrolling the deck, when their chronometers are clanking towards midnight. So what’s Dagada up to?

Kraglin’s diaphragm lurches up his chest. Is he going to see Yondu? And what’s Kraglin going to do, if he is?

Nothing, that’s what.

Really, he should turn around: utilize this opportunity for a productive purpose, sneak into Morlug’s bunk to bitch about their new restrictions and play cards until morning… Kraglin shifts his weight on the hatch’s protruding rim. Looks at the light above, harsh and white, then the murk of the tunnel below. The hole appears oddly flat, the ladder rails shrinking in size rather than distance as if it’s been robbed of its extra dimension. Kraglin wonders if that’s supposed to be a warning, his tired eyes conspiring with the haggard vestiges of his common sense: Danger! Insane captain – do not follow.

He nibbles his bottom lip. Thinks of whips and pain and Yondu’s broken leg. Plants his boot on the first creaking rung, and begins his descent.


Dagada is… brooding.

It’s the only word Kraglin can think of to describe it. He’s seen Yondu do this, occasionally – although his brooding tends towards the surly and is interspersed with grumbles about Jora’s third-rate artillery, and how it’s all well and good rupturing their bank for the odd souped-up swank piece of thief tech; but if you’ve got five out-of-date versions that’ll do the same trick for the same price, albeit a little slower, don't it make more sense to equip five Ravagers t'go and pull enough jobs to pay for that snazzy new card-duplicator in the first place; tell Isla I’m right, Kraglin!

No, Yondu’s brooding is directionless and unpredictable, a lash-out against whatever’s aggravating him on that day. But the atmosphere stewing around Dagada, as he bounds down another shaft and strides in the opposite direction to the brig – where the hell's he going, anyway? – is anything but. It’s pointed. Focused. And Kraglin doesn’t like it, not one bit.

Dagada halts. Kraglin, who’s been matching his paces to minimize the echo, has to freeze halfway through a step and violently windmills his arms for balance. He catches himself on the wall. Then, dreading the snap of his designation – and the blast of a plasma pistol that will inevitably follow – peeks round the corner. Only to discover that Dagada’s attention lays elsewhere.

They’ve stopped on the cusp of a populated corridor. A very familiar populated corridor. A familiar populated corridor, which dives straight into the Eclector’s engines. Kraglin can hear them, even at this distance. A bassy gut-shaking thrum, more vibration than sound, ululating up through the soles of his boots.

What’s Dagada want in there…?

Dagada’s fiddling with something in his sleeve. Kraglin leans out from the cover of the corner strut, eyes straining. Is that… a wire, he sees? A thin golden octagon, spoked like a spiderweb, circuits wound in a tight black button at its center?

Why, if he were glancing at it from the corner of his eye, he might think it was one of them ornamental pre-plasma sticky bombs from Yondu’s M-ship.

Yondu’s M-ship, coded to allow only himself access. With a biolock that only the captain can override. Captain Dagada, who isn’t as dim-witted as Kraglin has been convincing himself, who wants Yondu disgraced in the eyes of the crew so that he’ll have a decent excuse to blast him into the aether, and who just so happens to bear the unique epithet of the Detonator.

Shit.


What can he do? What is there to do? He runs out waving his arms and screeching about a bomb? The crew won’t stop to search their captain before following his orders; they’ll fling Kraglin into the brig to molder alongside Yondu, and then they’ll all be fucked. Fuck, he’s gotta think; he’s gotta do something –

Dagada nods to a gaggle of overall-clad Ravagers, their eyes buggish and insectoid behind their bottle-bottom goggles, who bob and flinch out of his way like a shoal around a shark. He fondles the explosive in his pocket – unfortunately, failing to set it off there and then, relieving himself of his organs and Kraglin of his worries in one foul burst. Eyes dark, he prowls beneath the heavy industrial hatch that denotes the engine block entrance.

The great gate groans closed behind him. Kraglin, already knowing what’s going to happen, darts forwards and manages to slam into it just as the palm key flashes red.

Locked.

Kraglin’s ribs clasp his lungs. Fuck, there goes any possibility of picking the darn devices out of Dagada’s pocket. The captain’s gone – out of touch, out of reach, safely incarcerated behind three inches of rust-flecked iron and lead. And Kraglin… Kraglin had stood there, petrified, and let him.

Engine-bound Ravagers pass to his left – perking, Kraglin makes to dart through the gates after them. But the biolock flares accusatory red, and the Ravagers form a leathery barricade, swooping down the hall and into the engine block with his pleas pealing off them like rain from greased coats.

Foiled. And with Dagada moving further away with every passing second, into the galleon’s volatile core, his pockets weighty with antique explosives. Antique explosives that of course everyone’s going to know belong to Yondu, once they’ve patched enough of the ship to care about tweezering shrapnel from the walls - because who else but him even collects that crap anymore? And then, like bodies from an airlock, there it all goes. Yondu’s tentative support base. His hopes of attaining the captaincy. Kraglin’s last chance at survival – because in rigging Yondu as the primary suspect while Yondu’s still clapped in irons, Dagada’s going to need a suitable scapegoat to frame as accomplice.

Kraglin clamps down on the panic before it has chance to fester. There has to be a solution. He refuses to give up, even if he has to batter down the door with Yondu’s stupid skrull bazooka…

Wait.

Dagada’s obsessed with keeping him from Morlug. Obsessed enough to remove him from engine detail, and sabotage his access to those quarters indefinitely. Who’s to say he’ll have been so vigilant with Yondu?

The engine door remains shut, a solid portcullis of interlocking iron grids. Ignoring the sniggering Ravagers who’ve borne witness to his failed entrance, Kraglin backs away from it, mind turning cartwheels.

The plan grows in fragments. Free Yondu. Ambush Dagada. Take this fucker down. It’s not smart and it’s far from complex. But right now, it’s all he’s got.

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