Blame It On The Stars

Chapter 37

In which Dagada had it coming.

When the abyss shatters, it shatters in silence.

A torrent of flame gushes from the Eclector’s starboard bow. Fire in spate, it licks amber and furious for a full second, a single but devastating exothermic throb, before being swallowed by the void. It’s followed by debris. Twisted pipes, bent panels half-melted into waxwork grotesqueries. Scorched flotsam and jetsam, spilt into a bottomless sea.

Two frigates and a smaller corvette, the current extent of the Ravager fleet, take one look at their galleon’s perforated side and reconvene at a safe distance. On board the corvette, the captain signals a rookie to tentatively take the comm.

“Uh,” he says, rolling the mic between his sweating palms. “Uh, are y’all… alright?”

Kraglin, in the process of flying backwards, most definitely is not.

He lands on his ass. Unfortunately, as his ass doesn’t have much in the way of impact conductivity, he’s bowled right over it, boot over head. His face makes a convenient friction brake as he skids into the far wall – along with all three of the too-brave or too-stupid Ravagers who had ignored his order to flee.

He scrambles upright while they’re shaking the ring from their ears. The iron great-door has dented inwards, but he sees no punctures. There’s smoke though, smoke of the sooty and carcinogenic kind, trickling through the vents. As Kraglin watches a red flash flares across the palm lock – hull breach detected in engine quarters, area in lockdown – and those vents squeak incrementally closed.

“Morlug!” he screams.

There’s a faraway boom. Like listening to a submarine navigate a minefield from the surface. Dagada’s smile is wild, his laugh moreso.

“You – I can’t believe, you –“

Yondu takes his foot off the detonator. Dispassionately watches the trigger piece click back into place.

“You blew it up, you set off the bomb – oh, this is priceless, I can’t believe –“

Yondu picks up the detonator. Weighs it in his palm.

“Now the galleon’s crippled and that fool bitch is dead – and doubtless your bitch with her!” Dagada claps his hands, gleeful as a child. “Come now, Udonta. Laugh a little. You’ve certainly never had a problem with that before. What’s wrong? Can’t see the funny side now? Upset because you’ve effectively scuppered your own ship? Nothing left to be captain of –“

The detonator smacks him in the face.

Dagada’s head snaps back, whiplash-fast. Yondu, chest heaving from the force of the throw, stumbles to follows up with a clumsy uppercut, throwing in every pound he has. Dagada jaw cracks. His wail is garbled and senseless as he attempts to press the bone back together, succeeding only in grinding the raw fracture.

There. Now neither of them can talk.

Engine quarters are in lockdown.

Kraglin smacks the biolock again.

Engine quarters are in lockdown.

Morlug’s not responding. Her name glitters emptily on his commlink holoread.

Engine quarters are in lockdown.

The breach has depressurized several compartments. That’s the bonus of space travel – no fire can survive without oxygen to fuel it. But the tunnels in the engine core will have been sealed off by internal blast doors, and there’ll still be a decent-sized fireball razing its way through the corridors closest to the main hold. Closest to Morlug.

Engine quarters are in lockdown.

And there’s smoke, and there’s heat and falling masonry, and unless she’d succeeded in disabling it, Morlug had had a bomb right on top of her…

Engine quarters are in lockdown.

“Shut up!” Kraglin screams.

He kicks the bulging steel in his frustration – regrets it when all he receives for his troubles is a hollow clang and a splintered toenail. He needs… he needs…

He needs an override.

He needs a captain.

Kraglin collects himself, the sweat in his clenched fists rubbing to grainy grey larvae. Takes a deep breath. Clicks the dial on his wristpiece away from Morlug’s name, and onto Yondu’s.

“Boss? You there?”

Kraglin needs a captain? Well, Yondu’d better get promoting himself.

What with all the blows to the head he’s taken, he’s more than a little wobbly on his feet. But at the end of the day, those headshots might be Dagada’s undoing. Because, when Yondu works his aching chin from side to side, he could swear there’s a little more give in the muzzle than there had been previously. Not enough to whistle through, but…

“Dyou’re dgonnna regwet dat,” he slurs. Dagada, jumping at the sound of his voice, gapes furiously over the crumpled jut of his jawbone, and lunges. Yondu sidesteps. Lets Dagada ram into the wall, blocks his clumsy retaliatory kick with a braced shin – ow ow ow – and floors him with a headbutt that carves the imprint of the muzzle into both of their faces.

Dazed, he makes the most of gravity’s downwards pull – which he’s suddenly feeling a lot more than usual – to collapse on Dagada’s stomach and squeeze the air out of him. Dagada’s lungs make the wheeze of cobwebbed organ bellows. Yondu gives himself a second to find his bearings. The pound in his skull soars momentarily higher than the adrenaline rush. As it recedes, Yondu angles his weight more firmly onto Dagada’s belly and fastens his hands under the bobbing apple in his throat.

Dagada’s got one of those faces that’s more handsome the further away from it you stand. Here, up close, Yondu’s treated to the full ugly spectacle – faint scars from the coolant spill, jaw dangling in a yawn that displays every one of the Xandarian’s woolly teeth. His tongue lolls, a white wet slug. Hands grapple Yondu’s wrists, yellow on blue. But Yondu doesn’t relent. He leans closer, bearing down harder, squashing Dagada’s neck above and his lungs below.

“Dwho’s laughink dnow?” he growls. Locates the arteries that pulse earwards under Dagada’s disjointed mandible. They’re a visible tic, squirming wormlike beneath the skin. Yondu shifts his hands with a precision that’s as surgical as it’s ruthless, snarling through the bit as Dagada’s cheeks go from yellow to orange.

A Ravager crashes around the corner. She’s part of the comms crew: overweight, Xandarian-featured, bowed heavily over her knees as she pants her message to the floor – “Sir! Sir, hail from the Dauntless. And Nihilator. And Vindice. They want to know what’s… going… on…” She glances from under her sweat-slicked fringe at Yondu, perched on Dagada’s stomach, hands frozen in the midst of throttling him. “I’ll just, I’ll just go, shall I?”

Yondu inserts his knee into Dagada’s liver, in case he fancies utilizing the distraction. “Dat’d be besd,” he rasps.

Dagada’s eyes roll as the Ravager shambles in retreat. His legs spasm: epileptic, desperate. But Yondu hangs on. He’s dead to the blood itching at his wrist from where Dagada’s nails slice in. Dead to the body writhing to dislodge his hips. Dead to everything but the single emotion that’s feeding life to Dagada’s gun-grey eyes – a blank, consumptive fear.

He releases him. Dagada’s inflamed airways struggle around a gasp. When Yondu drags up Dagada’s skull and smashes it on the decking, once, twice, three times, that fear is petrified forever.

Scrrtch, scrrtch, scrrtch. Scrrtch, scrrtch –


Yondu drops the detonator, its serrated edge now blunt, into Dagada’s gaping mouth. He peels the muzzle off his face with no little relief.

“Yondu!” Kraglin’s voice at his wrist. It’s been nagging away for the past five minutes, after Yondu’d bashed Dagada’s head concave – apparently, the idiot hadn’t had as thick a skull as he’d assumed. Yeah, yeah. Kraggles needs the captain’s codes. Yondu’s working on it. But – well, he ain’t giving no orders while he’s got a lump of steel seated on his tongue now, is he? Anyway, those straps were making his ears ache.

Override authority will transfer automatically to the next-in-line as soon as the wristpiece monitors read the captain as cold. The only crimp in this plan is that next in line’s not Yondu – but he can fix that.

Rubbing the split corners of his mouth – and praying that there won’t be any mutinies until he can shape a decent whistle – Yondu squats over the corpse (which, in death, has gone an interesting daffodil-grey, those infernal tattoos alone retaining their colour). He lifts Dagada’s floppy wrist, and activates the comm.

“Hey, Captain Thrabba,” he says sweetly. Puts on his scariest smile. “How’d you like to abdicate?”

He doesn’t know if she can hear him. But he talks to her anyway, as he tucks her burnt head under his chin and her knees over his arm, telling her stupid nonsense: that everything’s fine now, that everything’s gonna be alright.

He meets Yondu on the ramp to the medbay deck. The captain’s coming the other way. Dagada’d relieved him of his belt while in the brig, so the arrow’s tucked into a loophole on Kraglin’s jacket. Yondu’s face is pulpy around the mouth, but he’s grinning like an idiot – and, when he sees Kraglin, draws him into a one-armed side hug, mindful of his cargo.

“Guess who just fucked up the chain of command?” is his greeting. “So yeah. M’expecting a few mutinies. But anyone who tries it gets the Dagada treatment.” And he smirks at the watching Ravagers until they remember they’ve got an engine to extinguish.

Kraglin shrugs him off. Keeps walking. Yondu, falling into step, takes in the stony set of his mouth. “Uh, is she –“

“Not yet.”

There’s a low exhalation, one which could almost be relief. Yondu doesn’t offer to help carry her - Kraglin’s grateful for that, not least because they probably shouldn’t be moving her more than is absolutely necessary, and she’s already been jostled enough. News travels fast onboard and the Ravagers streaming past them, armed with fumigation pumps, fire hoses, and the occasional slopping bucket, pause to goggle at Yondu before tipping their heads respectfully and scurrying away. Yondu seems oblivious. His brace clicks every other pace, and Kraglin can feel that he’s watching him.

It’s too quiet, without speech. Kraglin’s becoming hyperaware of Morlug’s shuddery breaths. The terror that they might peter out is gnawing away at him from the inside – so he fills the silence in the only way he knows how.

“I can’t believe he’d actually do this,” he says, low and fierce. Clenches his fists in the sizzled leather of Morlug’s jacket – then hastily loosens the grip when she moans. “I mean, I know he was mouthing off about it… But I just can’t believe Dagada would blow her up.”

There’s a pause. Yondu’s gait falters – then immediately picks back up.

“Yeah. He was kinda a crazy guy, huh? Pushing the detonator on his own ship…”

“You killed him?” Kraglin asks, just to make sure. Squints at Yondu sideways, and is relieved to find a smirk and a nod. Then: “You made it hurt?”

Yondu’s grin becomes sharp; the strobing bulb overhead glints off capped and bloody teeth as they duck under a low tunnel strut. “Is my ass blue?” Kraglin can’t help but snort, and the grin grows. “And yours, tonight. I got me a cabin to christen.”

Kraglin could kiss him. Only he’s holding a half-fried Xandarian in his arms, her skin more char than pink. And Yondu’d only punch him if he dared. He settles on a smile, bumping his shoulder off his captain’s broader one.

“Sir, yes sir.”

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