Blame It On The Stars

Chapter 35

In which there is much action, and Dagada goes full-on expositionary movie villain.

It takes the captain a moment to absorb the scene before him. Kraglin uses that moment to start as if he’s licked his finger and stuck it in an M-ship jump-socket. Yondu uses it to recline on Dagada’s chair, arrow tucked by his thigh and file sticking out of the muzzle mechanism like a radio antennae. He makes a show of getting comfortable.

“Udonta,” Dagada snarls. Then his gaze tracks across to Kraglin. “And Obfonteri.” Kraglin’s fingers brush the knife lashed to the inside of his left wrist. If Dagada makes one move for his blasters…

But after an endless pause, Dagada’s expression twists to pleasant. Dangerously so. “How nice of you to join us. Congratulations, Udonta. On breaking out of the brig, and successfully incriminating yourself in the process. That hairy pet of yours too.” His smirk contracts. “Or perhaps, your accomplice.” Yep, accomplice. Kraglin called it.

“Dagada,” he says, voice low. “This’s a dumb idea.”

“You should know,” says Dagada. “You’re the master of those.” When Kraglin shifts his weight, knife grip warming to his palm, the captain removes a small black box from his pocket. A small black box with a golden clicker, matching the tarnished render on Yondu’s antique sticky-bombs. Detonator. “Ah.” Dagada’s smile is glacial, yet somehow entirely deranged. “You know what this is. You aren’t a complete imbecile then.”

Kraglin, frozen at the sight, forces himself into slow animation, drawing an overdue breath. “Naw, I’d reckon that title’s reserved for the captain who’s about to blow up half his damn ship. Seriously, what the hell?”

Dagada shows off every fur-laden tooth. “Oh, a sacrifice well worth it. If you want someone to blame, blame him. Everyone else will.”

Yondu, who had been making the most of the distraction to subtly scrape at the muzzle, is caught mid-act; he doesn’t bother to play innocent, but meets Dagada’s smirk with a vehement glare and files harder. Kraglin gives the half-sawn link a quick analysis. Not long now. If he can keep Dagada talking –

“Ain’t his fault that he’s more popular with the crew! Ever think that if you want folks to stop thinking you’re a loon, you oughta quit acting like one?”

Yondu nods at him as Dagada’s gaze is diverted. But Kraglin’s attention is rather more taken up with the detonator, being shaken in Dagada’s canary fist. “I am not insane!”

“Uh, think y’could be careful –“

“You know nothing! You know nothing of what it’s like, neither of you – I’d wanted the captaincy for so long, I’d worked for it, and when I finally got it, Udonta almost took it all away again! Like he always does!”

“Seriously, I don’t think you oughta be shaking that around…”

“It’s my rightful position! Jora named me first mate, and she died, which makes me captain! Me! Why can't you see that?”

“You killed Jora,” Kraglin reminds him, creeping forwards a pace. Dagada terminates his advance with an incensed wave of the detonator that almost sends it flying from his hands – retaining his grip at the last second, to Kraglin’s disappointment.

“Oh yes, yes. I killed Jora. Fed the old bat her favorite poison – do you know how long that took to organize? That flask never left her person – I had to apply the damn stuff around the rim after she offered me a drink, and it was only because her fucking eyesight was failing that she didn’t notice… Even then I was almost too late – Udonta was about to be promoted again, shoving me onto the backburner as usual!”

Yondu’s mouth is still full of metal. But he’s snarling. Kraglin’s sure of it. He clears his throat and holds up his hands, knife dragging deadweight on the lining of his sleeve.

“Sounds rough, buddy. Think you could put the detonator down –“

“Rough? You have no idea!” Dagada’s shout has Kraglin’s neck hair prickling. “All my life, ever since I joined, she has always, always put him ahead of me!” He points at Yondu over his shoulder. But Kraglin’s pupils are pinned to the detonator as it rattles in the loose cage behind middle, ring and pinky. “And why? Why? When I was her real son!”

Well. That’s… unexpected. Although, in hindsight, it shouldn’t be. Kraglin’s in-pinched eyebrows are all the cue Dagada needs: “Oh, I knew it! Even if she’d never admit it – never acknowledge me as her own. Why else would she send me to that Nova school? She tried to keep me out of the way, away from this life! As if she could!”

His speech is accented by the tremble of his thick yellow fingers, which sandwich the detonator securely between them (dammit). It sounds more like he’s talking to himself than dictating to Kraglin. Or perhaps he’s projecting at someone else, someone turning rigid revolutions through a bleak grey asteroid field, lightyears upon lightyears away. “I thought that if I joined up, if I fought besides her, she’d see I was capable. A deserving heir. When she made me First Mate, I thought she’d finally realized – but it was just to punish Udonta, wasn’t it? Nothing to do with me or my accomplishments at all.” A deprecating laugh. “Of course. All she had eyes for – all she ever had eyes for – was him.”

Yondu’s watching with frosty eyes. There’d be no time to pity the Xandarian, even if Kraglin had the heart to – as if Dagada deserves sympathy for poisoning his ma. But he nods along regardless, feigning listening. Gotta keep him talking, gotta give Yondu time…

Dagada, thankfully, is unlikely to be deterred mid-spiel. “Some brat she bought off the badoon!” His voice raises, becomes orotund, spit flecking his goatee. “Just because he can do all his whistling and his fancy tricks, she thought he was better? He’s a savage!”

Oh dear.

Yondu flings the file away.

It bounces off the windscreen, chipping itself rather than the glass, as Yondu lurches to his feet. Kraglin’s stomach churns as Dagada spins to face him – How to get his attention back? How to convince Yondu not to go postal before he can squeeze out a goddam whistle? How? How?

The captain treats Yondu to a zany grin, swaggering towards him with his arms outstretched. “Come on, Yondu. You really think you deserve to be captain? Don’t you remember that lesson Jora taught us? How it ended for you?” A cackle that wavers between fury and hysteria. “Jora should have left you in your cage, one-two-two-one-three!

Kraglin… has no idea what that means. But he’s certain, absolutely, positively so, that Dagada could not have picked a worse sore-point to prod.

Yondu’s anger usually blazes as bright and deadly as the radiation trail of his arrow. But at that number it calcifies, fossilizes, freezing into a comet’s icy heart. He places the arrow, with all due delicacy, on Dagada’s seat. Then straightens his shoulders, and beckons the man forwards.

The man who’s still gripping the detonator like it’s the galaxy’s most satisfyingly incendiary stressball. And damn it, but if Yondu plans on tackling him for it, he’s as likely to liberate the damn thing as he is to set it off. Kraglin considers a valiant (and likely suicidal) intervention, as Dagada approaches and Yondu glowers from under his heavy brows. Thankfully, the heavens intercede and he’s prevented by the booming toll of his wristpiece.

Morning Shift, reads the holographic lettering, projecting a good foot into the air. Report To Scrub Station: Bridge.

Well, at least he doesn’t have to worry about skipping work. Kraglin glances up, subject of both Yondu and Dagada’s stares. He clicks the watch to silent; the foghorn blare of his alarm snaps off in a static spurt.

“Sorry,” he says.

Yondu, pragmatic as ever, takes note of Dagada’s distraction and sweeps his legs out from under him.

The captain goes down hard – but not before grappling Yondu’s braced knee and yanking him down too. Yondu aims to crash it into his jaw. Luckily for Dagada’s teeth (not that they won’t be dropping out in a few years anyway, with the way that he’s going) and Yondu’s fractured shin, he misses. Kraglin, care only for the detonator, winces – then slowly reopens his eyes when there’s no explosion.

He’s in time to watch Dagada barge Yondu off with his shoulder. The big Xandarian rights himself, then dives back into the fray the moment Yondu, off-balance and teetering on his splinted leg, crashes against the console. Dagada, jaw bulging, deals two devastating kicks in close succession, pressing his advantage. Yondu blocks the first with a sturdy forearm. By the time Dagada’s built momentum for his second Yondu’s recovered enough to dodge. He throws himself belly-first on the floor. Dagada’s boot goes ankle-deep through the dash’s front panel.

Sparks burst. They fizzle off Yondu’s coat. Circuitry coughs electrical smoke, and lightning crackles over Dagada’s skin, snapping between his twitching fingertips. His face spasms and the tendons in his fists pull tight – the detonator bends, but doesn’t engage.

Kraglin prays that’s it: that it’ll be over, that Dagada will stand for a spare second before keeling heavily onto his face. But Dagada yanks out his boot and shakes himself off, no worse for wear, steam rising from the ridged stitching on his sleeveless jacket.


C-O-M-M--E-N-G-I-N-E-S, Yondu’s busy ordering Kraglin, fighting to regain his footing with his brace-bound knee. Dagada looms up behind him. Kraglin flings the knife, but it rebounds off the window. He can’t send a second – Dagada’s too close, forearm sandwiched over Yondu’s throat, dragging his muzzled head back and hoisting him off the ground.

Double fuck.

Kraglin dithers – but Yondu’s motioning for him to go. And honestly, it’d kinda be an insult to insinuate that he can’t give Dagada a damn good run for his money, whistle or no. He makes for the comms. Dagada plots his path and swears, shoving Yondu away and barreling after Kraglin. But Yondu, wheezing through the muzzle’s metal plates, hooks their ankles together and sends them both crashing. They roll, the thumps of skull, boot and brace indeterminable.

Kraglin can’t watch as they thud off the bottom of the ramp, clawing and swinging at one another. But from Dagada’s cough, Yondu’s gotten in at least one solid punch. Kraglin focuses on the blinking array in front of him. Engine rooms… Engine rooms… He activates his hologram, aligning it to the console read-outs and scanning the snippets of data that reel forth. Bridge. Canteen. Dorm blocks A-Z and beyond – there!

He stabs the button with his thumb. Grabs the wireless mic and darts to avoid Dagada’s lunge. Yondu’s plastered to his back, hanging on with arms and legs. The steel brackets of his brace dig into Dagada’s hip. He’s a furious blue limpet; with his weight dragging on his torso Dagada’s clumsy with top-heaviness, his punch is easily dodged, and Kraglin dances to the relative safety of the captain’s plinth.

And realizes he has no idea what to say.

How does one convey the urgency of this situation? What could possibly be adequate; what could incite an entire squadron to leave their work stations at a moment’s notice?

Kraglin clears his throat. “Engine crew! Y’all need to evacuate! Now!” Okay. Good start. But now what? Crew might not like Dagada much, but they ain’t gonna believe that he’d rig his own damn prize galleon. Ravager fleet’s hardly the most up-to-date in the aether, but the Eclector’s swankest of the whole sorry lot. He needs something else, anything –

Yondu rolls his eyes and stops throttling Dagada long enough to sign H-O-, before he’s heaved over one flame-tattooed shoulder and deposited hard on his back.

…Something like that.

“The Horde!” Kraglin yells. Dagada, spittle, froth and blood flecking his chin in equal measure, steps over Yondu’s winded body – being sure to plant a firm boot on his stomach as he goes – and stalks towards him. “The Horde’ve planted sticky bombs, y’all need to get out of there, as far as possible; go, go, go!”

Dagada pauses, halfway up the ramp. Twitching against the urge to bolt, Kraglin drops the microphone on the nearest console and stays as still as if he’s staring down a bilgesnipe. Only this time, it’s not just his life at stake. It’s Morlug’s. It’s Figs’. It’s everyone in the goddam engine room. Each life dangles from a spindly thread, one end of which is lassoed around the bombs’ trigger.

Dagada’s smile is death personified. “You’re too late,” he tells Kraglin, and presses it.

Or he would. If the damn thing was still in his hands.

Yondu sits, brushing himself off, and tucks the detonator into the lining of his borrowed jacket. The angle of his eyes suggests a grin under the muzzle, and a damn big one. Most likely of the shit-eating variety. Kraglin could kiss him there and then, big blue jackass that he is.

Then his comm crackles to life.

“Kraglin!” Morlug, high and tight-throated with panic. “Kraglin, my palm key’s deactivated! I’m stuck in the engines – Kraglin, are you there?”

The entire spectrum of emotion is compressed onto Dagada's face in a single, mutable second. When his expression settles, it's on rage. “If I can’t have her,” he seethes, turning on Yondu – whose eyes widen and who backpedals at a clumsy crawl – “No one can.”

G-E-T--G-I-R-L, Yondu signs. Then scrambles to his feet and runs. Dagada roars, louder than a bellowing bilgesnipe, and follows. The Bridge door slams behind him, and Kraglin sags against the back of the captain’s chair. Then straightens. Remembers that Yondu’s got one leg strapped into a cylinder of metal piping and hasn’t been fed in recent memory, and that with Dagada at peak fitness, it’s only a matter of time.

“Morlug,” he says, and breaks into a sprint.

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