Blame It On The Stars

Chapter 38

In which Kraglin promotes himself.

'Tonight' never happens. Yondu’s busy with captain-y things: an engine compartment blasted to high hell, another leg brace to break in, and the fleet a lightyear from the nearest honest and respectable outlaw repair port. He’s got minions to threaten into submission. Frigates to contact. A quaking Thrabba to be hung, drawn and humiliated, until not even the greenest rookie would consider casting lots in his favor. And Kraglin… Well, Kraglin’s draped over a chair in Doc’s medbay, watching the curtain around the surgical table jiggle with the dicing and slicing of four enthusiastic arms.

A’askvarii-girl plops onto the stool besides him, holding out a bowl of something. Kraglin takes it and eats mechanically, not registering the taste.

“She’s doing good, all things considering,” A’askvarii says, once his fork’s scraping pewter. Kraglin nods. Waits for elaboration. It comes with a flare of her gill-like nostrils, all in a rush – “Ain’t never gonna hear again though. Or talk. I’m sorry –“

“Ain’t me who needs an apology.” Kraglin sighs. Places his bowl on his lap, and stretches his legs. “And not from you.”

“Hm.” Her tentacles hover uncertainly above his head, like she wants to give him a pat. But she thinks better of it. Ravagers don’t do comforting. So she asks instead, voice harsh to compensate – “S’it true though? About Dagada? Losing it and sticking them bombs in himself?”

Kragliin shuts his eyes. “Yeah.”

Her sigh is a stutter. “Shit.”

“Yeah.” They sit for a moment. Then Kraglin turns to face her – “Hey, I never said thanks. For not leaving me. Back in that tomb –“

A’askvarii slaps a tentacle over his mouth. “Shut it! Ravagers don’t go back for folks, y’hear?”

Kraglin patiently worms the appendage down, ignoring the bitter tang of fish-oil. “You did.”

“Yeah well…” A’askvarii crosses her Lovecraftian limbs and nods sullenly at the stained and gritty curtain of the operating chamber. “So did Udonta. And you for her. Guess none of us are perfect Ravagers.”

Rocking the chair onto its hindlegs, Kraglin traces the path of a spacemoth as it flits across the bare solar-light panel. “Guess not,” he says, with a smile.

Kraglin’s passed out in the medbay, Morlug swaddled up like a mummy on the pallet besides. He startles awake at the touch to his shoulder – and finds Figs, glowering down at him, frizzy hair spritzed with static.

“We need to talk,” she says.

If that had boded ill last time, it bodes worse now. Kraglin glances around, locating Doc and A’askvarii, asleep in their own cots. A’askvarii’s sprawled out like roadkill and all six of Doc’s limbs are wrapped around his pillow. They’d been working on Morlug half the night, and he figures he owes them their rest. “Can we do it here?” he asks. Nods to the crispy lump on the bed. “M’supposed to be watching her vitals.”

“Cause you were doing such a great job when you was snoring,” Figs points out. “C’mon. I won’t be a minute.”

She heads for the doors. Kraglin trails after her, shivering – Yondu’s forgotten to return his jacket, the jackass. He’s all sticky under his thin shirt, sweat dry and itching. Add to that the amount of Morlug’s carbonized leathers that’d peeled off during the rescue, and he’s in dire need of a sluice-down. And one damn uninterrupted night of sleep. Preferably in Yondu’s swanky new captain-sized bed –

Which is probably what’s crawled up Figs’s ass and died. Kraglin yawns, scratching his stubble. “This about me an’ Yondu?”

The medbay door whooshes to with its customary ping. Figs doesn’t answer. She turns them onto a dim-lit passage, one of the many which thread the galleon’s epidermis. The pipe-lined enclave darkens as they near the dead end. It’s narrow and derelict, studded on the external flank with poorly-patched hull breaches, scorches from long-cold plasma blasts, and the occasional dusty black yawn of an airlock.

It’s also… familiar.

Kraglin hasn’t been here since his first day, when he’d almost strained his eyeballs out their sockets searching for a planet left far behind. It’s eerie, this return. He’s retracing the first steps he took as a rookie – in boots that’re a little more worn around the sole, but no less uncertain. At his side, Figs is a gloomy green ghost. She doesn’t speak. Neither does he, and the silence settles around them as thick as the cold grey dust.

Shifts are midway. Everyone is where they’re supposed to be. Scrubs have been cancelled in favor of clearing the charbroiled engine rooms, and everyone’s working double-time – which should make Kraglin feel guilty about having spent the last five hours dozing over Morlug’s passed-out body, but what the heck: he’d been instrumental in the evacuation procedure, and he figures he’s saved enough lives to earn a break.

But as a result, the corridors are deserted. So when Figs grabs him by the bicep and spins him into an open airlock, there’s no one to hear him scream.

Which he does. More in shock than anything, although it’s tinged with a generous helping of disbelief –

“Figs! What the fuck?”

“Ain’t personal,” says Figs. Short and to the point. As ever. For once, Kraglin wishes she’d be more long-winded – if only to give him time to concoct an escape.

As it is, he can only gabble –“What are you doing? What are you doing?” as Figs steps over the rim of the door-seal. He levers himself up, using the porthole for purchase – the porthole which is the only thing between him and a vacuum, the porthole which is going to shunt open the moment she presses that button and blast him out like bad exhaust, shit, shit, shit – and dives for the gap in a burst of adrenaline.

Good thing about being skinny. He slithers through before the lock can click in. There’s a muffled hiss as the airlock opens behind him. The blood drains from Kraglin’s face in sympathy. Then drains further, as he looks up to find Figs’ plasma pistol leveled at his head.

“Why can’t you just die?” she asks. Kraglin’s mouth opens and closes.

“Why are you trying to kill me?” he finally splutters. “We won!”

“You won,” Figs corrects. Her aim is steady, not a fraction of waver. Silhouetted against the ruddy light, the only touch of color on her is the Merlot-dark coat ribbing that maps out her flat breastbone. Her belt buckle twinkles as she steps forwards, and a dot germinates deep in the plasma pistol’s barrel, a comet hurtling ever-closer. “Udonta’s the captain this fleet needs. But you ain’t a factor in that plan.” Her finger dips inside the trigger-guard. “I can’t let you be.”

Kraglin is, to his utmost surprise, unafraid. Figs ain’t as deluded as Dagada – or at least, not in the same way. She wants what’s best for the crew, and what’s best for the crew is a captain unaffected by affection. Softness. Weakness. If she views Kraglin as Yondu’s weakness, of course she’d want to eradicate the mote before it turns cancerous.

However, Kraglin ain’t in the mood for dying today.

“Factor this,” he says, and dives at her legs.

Figs’ shot goes wild, rebounding off the ceiling. Kraglin yanks her close. He takes a bludgeon of a punch to the stomach but grits through it, chopping his hand on her wrist and shaking it to send the pistol skittering when her fingers flex out in pain. “Yield?” he asks. Steps behind her. One hand rests warningly on the back of her neck. Figs scoffs. Of course not; she’s got the mindset of a pitbull, and she’s gonna keep coming at him until he breaks. And dammit, but Kraglin can’t sleep with one eye open forever. “You’d’ve made a fine first mate,” he tells her, almost with regret.

She smiles at him. It’s the first time since that night on the satellite, when she’d spun him in a drunken waltz and Varra had fed him shots until he threw up, and he and Yondu had made the greatest mistake of their lives. Or the best decision. Kraglin hasn’t quite worked that one out yet. Her face is stunning, in a skrull-like way. He wishes he could have seen it happy more often.

Any other Ravager would snap at him. Scrabble for life tooth and nail, until the last link of vertebrae had been twisted from their nape. But Figs just tilts her head forwards. Her hair hangs like frothy seafoam. Beneath his palm, delicate green bones settle and click. “You better look after my crew,” she says.

Kraglin’s nod is subdued but certain. He completes the promise with “And my captain,” and rips out her spine.

It only feels right to watch Figs vanish, seeing as he’d afforded the same courtesy to Varra. However, the Eclector’s power core is fritzed and they’re only moving because they’re being sucked towards the event horizon of a neighboring black hole.

Kraglin winds up staring stupidly at a hovering corpse. Its spine gouges out the back of its neck, a solidified hangman’s rope, and it turns slow cartwheels outside the window like a morbid child. He gives Figs a respectful minute nevertheless – although that’s spent working out where he can wipe luminous green skrull blood off his hands, where it won’t be too traumatizing for the poor greenie who has to clean it. Eventually he gives in and settles on his trousers. Then, after a moment’s thought, slides the shutter on the airlock porthole closed. Don’t want no-one getting an eyeful.

So, he could have planned disposal a little better. But sue him. He’s tired.

…And he should probably comm Yondu and explain to him why he just murdered his best candidate for second-in-command.

It’s a task that should strike fear into the heart of any self-respecting, Centaurian-fearing Ravager. But Kraglin only musters a vague trepidation as he selects the first name on his call-list – “Hey sir.”

“Whassup?” Yondu sounds out of breath. He’s in the engine block by the amount of scalded, twisted metal crowding the hologram behind him, and there’s sooty warpaint smeared over his nose. Kraglin takes a breath.

“I mighta just killed Figs.”

Yondu, distracted with whatever botched relay he’s trying to replace – and he knows he’s shit with repairs, and there ain’t supposed to be that much oil leaking out, not from an electronics circuitboard, and why doesn’t he leave it for someone with the know-how – spares him a crook-browed glance. “You clean up after yourself?”

Kraglin shrugs. “Yeah.”

“Logged her name with the quartermaster – shit!” Black gunk spurts over the screen. His face vanishes from sight, visuals shaking as he fumbles to plug the leak – and then returns, dripping and glowering, daring him to comment. Kraglin keeps a straight face.

“Not yet, sir.”

“Right.” Yondu spits oil. Rubs a filthy hand across his mouth, which only really adds to the mess. “Go do that then. Then meet me in my cabin. And find me something alcoholic.”

“Sure, sir.”

“And tell the quartermaster to update your status to First Mate while you’re at it.” Kraglin’d be lying if he claimed he hadn’t been expecting that, but it still makes his nerves jump and shrivel.

“You, you really think I can, that I’m ready –“

Yondu cuts through his stuttering with a glare. “Kraglin?”


“That’s an order.”

And that’s that.

They’re lounging in Yondu’s new bed. Unlike every other cot on the Eclector, the captain’s berth is built for comfort – and for company, should he or she so choose. Kraglin sits with his back to the headboard, one leg crooked at the knee. Yondu’s in a lazy stomach-down sprawl, the only movement the circle of his thumb that scrolls the holochart projected in front of his nose.

“Whassat?” Kraglin asks, running the back of a nail down the scar. It’s a long silver strip that runs from the base of Yondu’s implant over his nape, then down his spine to kiss his tailbone, the tip of which is usually tucked beneath Yondu’s collar.

He’s talking about the hologram. But Yondu twists at the hips, onto his side, angling the scar away, before replying – “Fin,” in a rather abrupt tone and pressing something that has little golden fireworks popping across the screen. Kraglin’s hand hovers. Then determinedly resettles across the dimples on Yondu’s lower back.

“Is it a game?”

The muscles under his palm relax.

“Nah. Schematics – for Trezgalar.”

Kraglin however, tenses like Yondu’s jabbed him with a shockstick. “Trezgalar,” he croaks. “The Trezgalar.”

Yondu smirks against the blanket. “The one and only.”

“The fortress populated by outworld rebels? The one the Nova corps’ve been failing to crack for centuries?”

“Oh, you know it?”

There’s a voice in people’s heads that tells them not to do stupid stuff, like jumping out of moving vehicles or zapping a Kronan with a taser. Yondu does not have this voice. Or at least, if he does, he takes great delight in ignoring it.

Luckily, Kraglin doesn’t have that little voice either.

“Sounds good, boss,” he says. Snaps open his wristpiece and starts plotting a course.

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